Music Highlights at the BFI London Film Festival 2022
Last week saw the programme announcement for the 66th BFI London Film Festival, which takes place across the capital city this October. Needless to say there’s a great selection of films again this year!
With some 164 features (23 of them world premieres) screening alongside TV series’, shorts, and other audiovisual works, we took it upon ourselves to curate a list of the best productions with a strong music element – whether that’s thanks to a talented composer making the score, a killer soundtrack, or music comprising a central focus of the narrative.
Check out our top picks from the festival below, we’ll see you there next month!
Meet Me In The Bathroom
This adaption of the best-selling book by Lizzy Goodman offers an immersive journey into the early ‘00s music scene in New York City, where acts like The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol kick-started a musical rebirth in the wake of rapidly-rising Manhattan rents and the tragedy of 9/11.
As we remember very well from our own formative years, this was a scene that quickly went international – shaping the landscape of guitar music for much of the decade thereafter. We’re excited to see how Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace (directors of Blur documentary ‘No Distance Left to Run’ and LCD Soundsystem concert film ‘Shut Up and Play The Hits’) bring this vibrant subject to life.
Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande
“Great artists — sometimes their work isn’t appreciated until long after they’re gone.” These are the words of one of the talking heads in the trailer to Tim Mackenzie-Smith’s documentary on legendary Black British funk group Cymande. We couldn’t agree more!
The band, who combined elements of funk, calypso, soul and jazz across three albums in the early ‘70s, split in 1975 after being largely ignored in the UK – where they were subjected to racism from the industry. Years later, songs like ‘Bra’, ‘The Message’ and ‘Dove’ would feature in films by Spike Lee, and be sampled in classic tracks by De La Soul, The Sugarhill Gang and The Fugees, as Cymande shaped the sounds of a new generation of musicians, years after their split.
We caught the reformed Cymande when they performed at Bonnaroo Festival back in 2016 – here’s hoping that the new film will see them touring again in the UK soon.
There will be some great film scores scattered throughout the London Film Festival this year – with the Headline Gala programme alone stacked with top-tier composer talents.
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross, who previously won Academy Awards for their work on ‘Soul’ and ‘The Social Network’, return for Sam Mendes’ romantic drama ‘Empire of Light’. The National’s Bryce Dessner, meanwhile, is the composer for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s ‘BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’. Veterans Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman score ‘The Son’ (dir. Florian Zeller) and ‘White Noise’ (dir. Noah Baumbach), respectively. And Alexandre Desplat, known for his collaborations with Wes Anderson and Guillermo del Toro, reunites with the latter for a stop-motion version of ‘Pinocchio’.
One new score we’re particularly interested to hear is Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s for the Oliver Hermanus film ‘Living’, starring Bill Nighy. Levienaise-Farrouch was previously nominated for a British Independent Film Award in 2019 for the film ‘Rocks’, and in 2021 she took inspiration from the music of John Carpenter and Goblin for her music for the Prano Bailey-Bond horror film ‘Censor’. A different film genre will surely mean a different kind of score — but we expect big things from this rising star.
God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines
Director Kristian R. Hill explores the African-American origins of techno music in this fascinating new documentary.
The film utilises archive footage and interviews to take viewers on a journey from Detroit and Chicago to London and Berlin, tracing both the history of techno and also that of African-American culture and music on a broader scale. Record producers and DJs like Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Blake Baxter are among the influential artists at the fore.
Episodes one to three of this new series, directed by Clea DuVall (known for her performances in ‘90s cult classics like ‘The Faculty’ and ‘Girl, Interrupted’), air at this year’s festival. The production adapts the memoir of the same name published in 2019 by Canadian indie duo Tegan & Sara, and utilises an entirely LGTBQIA+ creative team for the process.
Set in the early ‘90s at the height of the grunge era, the autobiographical series depicts identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin as they enrol in high school – with the narrative exploring both characters’ contrasting perspectives. The soundtrack, meanwhile, captures the sounds of the era in exciting fashion via artists like Hole, Violent Femmes and Smashing Pumpkins.
In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats
The London Film Festival isn’t just about feature films. There’s also a whole other section of the event that utilises VR headsets and interactive installations, offering patrons some exciting and immersive audio visual experiences.
‘In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats’ looks like a clear highlight of the ‘Expanded’ section. This project of filmmaker Darren Emerson takes audiences on a journey in search of an illegal rave at the height of the acid house movement in Coventry, 1989. The adventure begins in a bedroom strewn with posters and music magazines, and traverses pirate radio stations and warehouse parties thereafter, as the sounds of TB-303 bass sequencers and drum machines amplify the sense of excitement.