In this exclusive piece co-founder Jonathan Wakeham talks us through his highlights of the festival, and why we need comedy films now more than ever.
Programming a film festival is like having children: you shouldn’t really have a favourite. But at our sixth LOCO London Film Festival it’s hard not to highlight Aki Kaurismäki’s Berlin Best Director winner The Other Side of Hope.
That’s partly because, like all of Kaurismäki’s films, it’s beautifully written, acted and filmed, every frame a perfect composition glowing with his signature rich 1950s colour palette. It’s deeply touching too, spiked with deadpan humour and features many of his regular players as well as an adorable dog.
But it’s also because it embodies the theme of this year’s festival: hope. Hope can seem in short supply this year, with Brexit looming, the icecaps melting and Donald Trump threatening to kill us all if IS don’t get there first. The news has become a dystopian thriller and this year’s British general election has all the philosophical depth and integrity of six clowns fighting in a bath of cold porridge.
So where can we turn for comfort? One option, of course, is avoidance. Comedy can do that, keeping us laughing by looking away. But that’s like eating ice cream to keep cool when your house is one fire. It’s not what Kaurismäki does in The Other Side of Hope, and it’s not how we’ve approached our festival programme.
In Rebecca Solnit’s Hope In The Dark she writes, “Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists”. In the midst of an election campaign in which all sides declare with conviction that their own policies will lead us to paradise, while their opponents’ will send us to our doom, we should welcome that voice of uncertainty: the voice that denies easy answers, but still points to a better way ahead.
That uncertainty — that hope in the dark — lies at the heart of many of the films we have chosen this year. The Other Side of Hope is the story of a Finnish businessman who encounters a Syrian refugee, and instead of reporting him helps him, not as a revolt against the system but as one flawed human to another. Every Brilliant Thing is the story of a young man whose mother contemplates suicide, and who responds by gently reminding her of all the good things life still has to offer. Brakes shows us nine different love stories, from their ends to their beginnings, not ducking the brutalities of modern romance, but celebrating the hope that every first kiss represents. And We Used To Be Cool is refreshingly frank about the challenges that first time parents face, but honest too about the joy that a child’s love can bring.
These aren’t comedies of escape, but of engagement: comedies that show us how to live and how to love, and how to laugh along the way. They’re films without straightforward heroes or straightforward happy endings: films about flawed, funny people doing their best in a challenging world. And they’re films for watching together, that give us space to accept our vulnerabilities, but also to see that we’re stronger than we think. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”. That’s what comedy can bring us, and what we can take out into the world.
The sixth LOCO London Comedy Film Festival runs 4-7 May at BFI Southbank. For information and tickets please visit www.locofilmfestival.com
- Chubby Funny (starring Isabella Laughland, Alice Lowe and Harry Michell), Brakes (starring Steve Oram, Kerry Fox and Noel Fielding) and Mindhorn (starring Julian Barratt, Russell Tovey and Andrea Riseborough) all vie for this year’s LOCO Discovery Award for a first time British director. Previous winners include Gone Too Far! and Burn Burn Burn: who will be this year’s rising star?
- Young female film collective Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah highlight new online comedy talent in On The Internet Nobody Knows You’re A Clown.
- Catch the UK premiere of HBO’s filmed version of worldwide stage hit Every Brilliant Thing, about a young man’s life in the shadow of suicide, screening to support the Samaritans. Plus Q&A with writer Duncan Macmillan and star Jonny Donahoe.
- Aki Kaurismäki’s Berlin Best Director winner The Other Side of Hope is the timely tale of a Finnish salesman helping a young Syrian refugee find his sister.
- We Used To Be Cool is a sparkling social satire about hipsters becoming parents, including a Parent and Baby Premiere in partnership with Raising Films. Plus Q&A with writer/director Marie Kreutzer.