The Mostly British Film Festival opens Thursday, celebrating its fifth anniversary. Oldies, upcoming releases and films that local moviegoers may never otherwise get to see will screen over eight days.
Twenty-five films of varied genres from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and South Africa screen at the Vogue Theatre in the series, which benefits the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation.
Mostly British was conceived as a means of delivering British cinema — a world-cinema component that, despite being in English, often doesn’t receive U.S. distribution — to Bay Area audiences in a celebratory setting.
“We are an all-volunteer festival and have developed a solid following in the first five years of our existence,” says Jack Bair, co-founder of Mostly British and the theater foundation.
“Hunky Dory” opens the festival at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Minnie Driver — who will appear in conversation afterward — plays a teacher in pre-Margaret Thatcher South Wales who mixes Shakespeare with rock music.
Another high-profile selection, at 8 p.m. Monday, is “56 Up,” the eighth installment in the documentary series that has followed a group of British citizens since they were 7.
In “Lost and Sound,” screening at 6 p.m. Monday, documentarian Lindsey Dryden explores what it is like to become deaf and how this affects one’s ability to listen to music. Focusing on three people, Dryden entwines medical fact-finding quests with emotional journeys.
Dryden, who is partially deaf, decided to make a full-length documentary instead of a short experimental film after discovering “there was so much to explore around deafness, music and the brain.”
“Viewers tell us all the time that they’ve been comforted or helped or reinvigorated by the film,” she says.
On Friday, noir night, the program includes Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out” (1947) and Sidney Lumet’s “The Deadly Affair” (1966), both starring James Mason.
Curator-novelist Tony Broadbent (“Shadows in the Smoke”) describes Reed’s man-on-the-run tale, screening at 7 p.m., as a “terrific piece of cinema” that was overshadowed in its day by Reed’s “The Third Man.” Lumet’s film, showing at 9:30 p.m., is based on John le Carre’s first novel.
Broadbent calls “This Happy Breed” (1944) and “Brief Encounter” (1945) — screening at noon and 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, respectively — “quintessentially British.” Both are directed by David Lean, are based on Noel Coward stories and feature actress Celia Johnson.
From Ireland comes “Flying Blind,” at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, an erotic drama meets post-9/11 thriller.
Australia’s slate includes “The Sapphires,” an Outback musical, at 7 p.m. Saturday, while South Africa’s “A Million Colours,” at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 23, follows a black couple in apartheid times.
“Shadow Dancer,” a thriller about a young single mother who spies on the IRA, closes the festival, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24.