What London Watches: Ten Films That Shook
Last year, we asked Londoners, 'what film shook your world and why?'
These are the stories behind the films you chose...
We wanted to create a unique crowd-sourced film season to represent London’s diverse communities on the big screen:What London Watches: Ten Films that Shook Our World.
Your films dated from 1902 to 2017, but the 2000s were your favourite decade.
Your films spanned romance, drama, documentary, science fiction, animation and everything in between. Your favourite genre was drama.
With the support of London’s community groups, we received entries from across London’s boroughs, across the ages and backgrounds and the films and stories you shared represented just that.
Here are the ten films that shook London’s world…
Director: Bob Fosse
While the Nazi Party rises to power, Englishman Brian Roberts (Michael York) moves to Berlin to complete his German studies. In his rooming house he meets Sally Bowles (Liza Minelli), a bohemian singer at the decadent Kit Kat Club. With the all-seeing Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) as our guide, we witness Sally and Brian as their friendship blossoms into an affair, with the chilling spectre of Nazism hanging over them, alongside wonderful cinematography and show-stopping dance sequences.
Law of Desire (18)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
One of the landmarks of queer cinema, this raunchy tale of a love triangle-turned-deadly succeeded in launching Pedro Almodóvar onto the international filmmaking scene.
Successful film director Pablo (Eusebio Poncela) finds himself discontent with his relationship with his younger lover Juan (Miguel Molina). Focusing on his latest project, a play starring his transgender sister Tina (Carmen Maura), Pablo sends Juan packing and hooks up with the young dashing Antonio (Antonio Banderas). But things turn dark when Antonio becomes obsessed with Pablo and Antonio is forced to choose between a man who loves too little, and a man who loves too much.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (U)
Director: Hayoa Miyazaki
One of Studio-Ghibli’s most loved films, this heart-warming parable follows the adventures of Kiki, a headstrong young witch who is trying to make her way in the world.
Sent to live alone for a year, in accordance to her village’s tradition for witches in training, Kiki packs her belongings and heads to a European seaside town with her talking cat Jiji. Taken in by a kind bakery owner, Kiki earns her keep by delivering cakes by broom and takes the seaside town by storm.
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Dubbed The Godfather of Bollywood films, Sholay topped the Indian box office for 19 years after it was originally released in 1975.
Set in the small village of Ramgarh, Sanjeev Kumar plays Thakur, a retired police chief who enlists the help of two criminals, to bring down Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan), a notorious bandit who murdered his family and terrorised the region.
Opening with one of the most memorable action sequences in film history, it’s clear to see why this breathless action-adventure has left an impact on Indian cinema like no other.
of Rosie the Riveter
The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (#)
Director: Connie Field
Connie Field’s celebrated documentary focuses on the women who took factory jobs during the Second World War, using the recollections and voices of the women themselves. The film puts real propaganda films, with their jingoistic exertions and cheery attitudes, with real newsreel footage and anecdotes about working in the factories at the time. Facing real sexual and racial discrimination, women workers banded together to make progress in the workplace, often with a huge sense of humour and tough spirit.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Humphrey Bogart is Rick, the cynical and heartsick American expat holed up in his bar in Casablanca. Ingrid Bergman is Ilsa, the ex-lover he’s still pining for, unexpectedly walking back into his life. And Paul Henreid is her husband, a Czech Resistance fighter, who she previously thought was dead. Set amid the backdrop of WWII – and a time when the future was uncertain – it’s a film full of hard-boiled resolve, bittersweet romance, and endlessly quotable lines. Play it again.
Director: Mick Jackson
A devastating speculative account of the effects of a nuclear attack on Sheffield at the onset of World War III, BBC drama Threads was nominated for seven BAFTA awards after its 1984 release.
Preparing for their marriage, Jimmy and Ruth (Reece Dinsdale and Karen Meagher) are almost oblivious to the international political tensions caused by the USSR’s invasion of Iran. But when Sheffield – home to vast resources and an RAF base – is bombed by a thermonuclear device, they must learn to survive as their home is turned into a desolate wasteland.
An Angel at My Table (15)
Director: Jane Campion
Country: New Zealand
An early feature-length from celebrated director Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table adapts the autobiography of acclaimed New Zealand author, Janet Frame.
With three actors taking the role of Janet at various stages in her life, follows her through the deprived childhood through to her confinement in a mental institution, and the solace, escape – and eventual success – she finds through writing. Rich with human detail, this is a moving, captivating film from a visionary director.
In association with Women in Film and Television (UK)
Set It Off (15)
Director: F Gary Gray
Bank employee Frankie (Vivica A Fox) is unjustly fired from her job after a robbery, due to her acquaintance with the perpetrator. Upset, she joins her best friends Cleo (Latifah), Stony (Pinkett Smith) and Tisean (Kimberly Elise) to work for disrespectful boss Luther (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) at a janitorial service, all scraping by on the little pay he gives them. Desperate to escape their situations, they hatch a plan to hold up a bank themselves.
In association with The New Black Film Collective
The Great Dictator (PG)
Director: Charles Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s greatest commercial hit was this 1940 tragi-comic satire; his first ‘talkie’ and the last outing for his famous Little Tramp persona. Chaplin plays both an unnamed Jewish barber and tyrant Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania (based on one A. Hitler).
After a series of events – which include a rescue, amnesia, an act of mercy and a boating accident – a case of mistaken identity means that our barber begins to live the life of Hynkel.
The film skewers and deflates Hitler’s pomposity and grandstanding throughout; there are some excellent comic sequences, which include spaghetti, barber's chairs, pudding and a globe – though, not all at the same time. What's more, Hynkel’s faux decorum is contrasted with the buffoonish energy of ally Napaloni (ruler of neighbouring Bacteria), with the ridiculousness of both dictators exposed for all to see.
What London Watches: Ten Films That Shook Our World took place at the Barbican from 6–13 April 2017.
Part of Film in Focus, a year celebrating the power of the moving image and its influence across the arts.
With thanks to Film London, Film Hub London and BFI Film Audience Network.