The BBC First British Film Festival launched three years ago. With more than 41,000 admissions this year the program presents an opportunity to see some of the best cinema in the world. We’ve put together a list of the eight films you’ll kick yourself if you miss and their British cafe, bar or restaurant equivalents.
A United Kingdom is nel.
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.
The gastronomic embodiment of A United Kingdom is nel. It’s a sophisticated yet homey restaurant that serves conceptual, degustation-style food. For example, green peas and ham in small glass test tubes.
A Monster Calls is Bulletin Place
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.
Pair this film with a bubble and squeak from Loj. It’s served with bacon, black pudding, fried egg and a homemade HP sauce.
I, Daniel Blake is Patchett’s Pies
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.
A staple of the working class, the pork pie is emblematic of struggle and perseverance. The recipes at Patchett’s Pies are three-centuries old and are a tribute to the British middle class. While its recipes are closely guarded family secrets, we do know that Dan Patchett’s mother received them from an award-winning master pie maker in the UK.
Trespass Against Us is The Toxteth Hotel*
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.
With the Union Jack emblazoned over one of its walls, draught beer, a touch of taxidermy and weekly quizzes, The Toxteth Hotel perfectly captures the essence of this British film. Take a seat in the sun-drenched beer garden and you’ll expect to see Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson’s characters at the table over the way discussing the British economy and the state of the working class.
Their Finest is The Victoria Room Tea Salon
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.
Enclosed by a picketed fence, The Victoria Room Tea Salon is the perfect place to drop by for a cup of English Breakfast tea or champagne before or after the movie.
Tommy’s Honour is The Stinking Bishops
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.
With the finest Australian and imported dairy products, Newtown’s The Stinking Bishops echoes the same traditionalism and rawness of Tommy’s Honour. Commemorating nature and all of its gifts, this matter-of-fact cheese shop is a hole in one.
The Man Who Fell to Earth is The Powder Keg
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.
With a cocktail which looks like a science experiment, and a menu inspired by Guy Fawkes, The Powder Keg is David Bowie in cocktail-bar form.
A Room with a View is The Lord Nelson Brewery
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.
Like A Room with a View, The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel celebrates everything British. Adorned in flags, and serving pies with peas and gravy, this is less of a pub and more of a standing homage to the Britain of yesteryear.
The BBC First British Film Festival will screen at Palace Norton Street Cinema, Palace Verona and Chauvel Cinema from Tuesday October 25 to Wednesday November 16.
For session times and more information visit britishfilmfestival.com.au