Leeds Film Festival may not yet have the glamour of London, or even Edinburgh, but it’s making up the ground year by year. The 2004 festival, which opens tomorrow and runs to the 7 November, promises 77 feature films, twice the number of shorts, and a host of events and activities.
The festival opens with Finding Neverland, in which Johnny Depp plays Alice in Wonderland author J.M.Barrie alongside Kate Winslett, and closes with Pixar’s The Incredibles.
This year there are plenty of exclusives, ranging from the UK premiere of the White Stripes’ first video, Under Blackpool Lights, to the World Animation Competition.
As Asian cinema enjoys an ever wider following in the West, the demand is reflected in the Leeds programme. The Fanomenon section, which covers the gamut of fantasy film, is notably dominated by the Orient, with more epic martial arts action from director Zhang Yimou (Hero), in The House of Flying Daggers.
Miike Takashi’s latest offering Izo, described as a "mind-bending, barking-mad samurai fantasy”, provides another UK first. Look out for another zany Japanese film, Cutie Honey (directed by Anno Hideaki), which promises a blend of kitsch retro, dazzling graphics and anime storyline.
There are also retrospectives of DEFA War Films from East Germany, and the work of Russian director Larissa Shepitko. As part of the main programme, considerable attention is devoted to little-known female Spanish Director Iciar Bollein. Nor will homegrown talent be neglected - UK Film Week falls within the festival and honours Leeds’ ongoing commitment to promoting British film.
Enduring Love, adapted from Ian McEwan’s bestseller, directed by Roger Michell (Changing Lanes, Notting Hill), can be found at the big-budget end of the programme, and rubs shoulders with a number of directorial debut. Meanwhile, the best of British shorts from the archives get an airing in two feature-length presentations.
And not content with auditoriums, the Leeds Festival looks set to take over the city, holding screenings in a number of temporary venues, from bars to churches, whilst multi-media events will promise to push at the boundaries of what we think of as cinema. What the Festival lacks in kudos it seems to be making up for in diverse programming and inclusion of the local community, making it one to watch in 2004 and the next few years.