Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar in “Ali & Ava”.

AMID the heady selection of 31 films for November’s 2021 British Film Festival there is, of all things, a Canberra connection. 

Canberra-raised and trained opera star Lorina Gore sings the opening aria and syncs the part of a young singer performing Mozart’s daunting “Queen of the Night” aria and appears on screen at the beginning of the trailer. 

The film, “Falling for Figaro”, features Joanna Lumley as a fearsome singing teacher who sets her two students up against each other for the same competition. The film screens at Palace Electric on November 11, 13, 26 and 28.

Joanna Lumley, left, and Danielle Macdonald in “Falling for Figaro”.

As always, the festival celebrates the best of British in a potpourri of contemporary films, documentaries and a flashback section to British films of the 1970s, including Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and “Barry Lyndon”, John Schlesinger’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, Franc Roddam’s “Quadrophenia” and Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs”, starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. 

Stars of “The Duke”, Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren.

Films based on real-life events far and away dominate the selection this year, with opening night film “The Duke”, which stars Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, following the true story of how in 1961, 60-year-old taxi driver Kempton Bunton stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.

“Operation Mincemeat”, featuring Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen, follows the true events surrounding the Allies’ deception effort to keep their planned invasion of Italy hidden and outwit German troops. 

And  “The War Below” centres on a group of British miners recruited during World War I to tunnel underneath no man’s land and the German front. 

“Miss Marx” is a biopic starring Romola Garai that paints a portrait of Eleanor Marx, the social reformer, women’s rights activist and Karl Marx’s youngest daughter, while Terence Davies’ film “Benediction” is a portrait of 20th-century English war poet Siegfried Sassoon.

“To Olivia” is the story of a tormented marriage starring Hugh Bonneville and Keeley Hawes as novelist Roald Dahl and his wife, the Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal. “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain”, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy, tells of eccentric British artist Louis Wain, whose paintings helped to transform the public’s perception of cats. 

Of special interest to filmgoers will be “Belfast”, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, a poignant story of a boy’s childhood amid the music and social turmoil of the late 1960s Northern Ireland. 

Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith in “Last Night in Soho”.

Among the genre films are Edgar Wright’s psychological horror fantasy “Last Night in Soho”, where an aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. 

There’s also a contemporary multicultural love story in Clio Barnard’s “Ali & Ava”, which follows an unlikely romance between two working-class Bradford residents. 

For music lovers, “Eric Clapton: Lockdown Sessions”, the recording of a new live album filmed in the English countryside during the pandemic, while “Stardust”, more a biopic than a doco, chronicles the young David Bowie’s 1971 road trip across America when he was still developing the alter ego that would become Ziggy Stardust.

In “Sparkling: The Story of Champagne,” Stephen Fry looks behind the scenes of the highest-end sparkling wines, while in “Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story” we learn the untold story of a ground-breaking author and her mission to build a one-woman literary empire. 

You’d have to say this is not a festival for the kids, except for the family film “The Railway Children”, adapted from Edith Nesbit’s 1906 novel, but in every other respect, patrons will be spoilt for choice. 

The 2021 British Film Festival, November 3-December 1. Book at

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