BFI London Film Festival 2016: Ten Of The Best Music-Related Films To See [Preview]

on Tuesday, October 04, 2016
2016 BFI London Film Festival (various venues, 5-16th Oct '16) // Words: Saam Das

The 60th BFI London Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday October 5th, with the topically titled 'A United Kingdom'. We'll be along for the ride, and will be catching as many films as physically possible. Ahead of our spreadsheet-based wanderings from screen to screen, we thought we should highlight some of the most interesting music-based films to watch at the festival, which you can find alphabetically-listed below.


Acclaimed filmmaker/agent provocateur Spike Lee's latest film is the Gala screening for the London Film Festival's Sonic strand. Starring the likes of Wesley Snipes and Samuel L Jackson, 'Chi-Raq boasts the unusual premise of being a hip-hop musical that transports Aristophanes' ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata to a more contemporary Chicago setting. And it's about sex. Or lack thereof. But moreso, another typically cutting socio-political stand from the 'Do The Right Thing' director.

'I Called Him Morgan'

Kasper Collins's documentary of jazz musician Lee Morgan delves deeper into the trumpeter's life and death in the 1970s, with the help of archive recordings and perhaps surprisingly his assailant - his partner Helen Morgan, who shot him in February 1972. 'I Called Him Morgan' finds itself placed in the Love section of this year's LFF, in recognition of the extremes that love can drive us to.

'London Town'

I recently went to an excellent little exhibition on Punk 1976-78 at the British Library, so I'm not surprised to see a film at the LFF capitalising on that era. Admittedly, 'London Town' opts for 1979 as its home - a year better known for the rise of post-punk - but nonetheless, centres its story around one of the biggest punk bands of the time, The Clash. The teen-led story has shades of John Carney's recent 'Sing Street', and we hope that it shares a similar charm.

'The Man From Mo'Wax'

James Lavelle has already established himself as an iconic member of the UK music scene, whether through his collaborative project UNKLE or through his trailblazing trip-hop label, 'Mo'Wax'. Debut director Matthew Jones seeks to paint a befitting portrait, and you can't argue that he's not put the effort in - the doc has taken the best part of a decade to make.

'Minute Bodies: The Intimate Life Of F.Percy Smith'

Brought together by David Reeve and Stuart A Staples of tindersticks, this experimental film seeks to recreate some of the wonder that F Percy Smith himself may have felt when he was one of the first to show microscopic science on film. The film marries Smith's original footage with an expressive soundtrack by tindersticks.


One of the frontrunners to the Official Competition of the LFF, Barry Jenkins adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney's play 'In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue' also sees Janelle Monae in a prominent acting role. (We're reliably informed that this is nothing like Rihanna in 'Battleship'.) An unusual coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Miami, and one that covers persistent and pertinent perceptions of race and sexuality.

'On The Road'

A late, but particularly welcome, addition to the LFF programme this year sees the excellent Michael Winterbottom return. (In additional excellent news, it seems that Winterbottom is finishing off another series of 'The Trip'.) Winterbottom has history with musical portraits, most notably with the madcap Mancunian biopic '24 Hour Party People', and here offers up the world premiere of his view of Mercury-nominated band Wolf Alice "on the road".

'Sound And Vision'

Short films can easily get pushed to one side, but the LFF is always strong to acknowledge and promote their presence and importance in the film world. This series of five diverse efforts includes the BAFTA Scotland award winning stop motion 'Stems and renowned graphic novelist Robert Valley's first animated short, 'Pear Cider And Cigarettes'.

'Trespass Against Us'

Five words: Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson. These two acting heavyweights alone should attract you to music video and TV director Adam Smith's breakthrough feature film. A thrilling cops-and-robbers tale heightened by a soundtrack provided by Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers.

'We Are X'

Honestly, I hadn't heard of X Japan until reading about Stephen Kijak's doc on the glam rockers. Which reflects poorly on me, if anything, as they are Japan's most successful band - with over thirty million album sales. Their outlandish look and turbulent story is fascinating, and with news of a potential reunion, Kijak sought to showcase their history to a wider audience. Halfway to a job well done.

Find all the screening times and purchase tickets to BFI London Film Festival at

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