It's official, and there'll be no escaping it: The Olympics are really coming. In the event, an unlikely partnership has been forged between BBC Films and Film 4, who have commissioned short films from four of the country's most innovative and exciting directors.
Lynne Ramsay, director of We Need to Talk About Kevin; Asif Kapadia, director of the masterful documentary Senna; the venerable Mike Leigh; and (somewhat incongruously) Max & Dania, directors of the StreetDance films. Each present a searingly different vision of the city. These commissions are showing as part of the London 2012 Festival. The directors were given an open brief. They could make whatever they wished under the theme 'inspiration', and they didn't even have to mention the Olympics. A film director will rarely, if ever, have that kind of freedom: to make a film entirely to his or her own specifications and have it play at cinemas.
Unsurprisingly, the films vary wildly. Max & Dania have Noel Clarke acting as guardian angel to Joe, a West London boy in need of inspiration from those around him. Ramsay takes us swimming in a river with a young man, followed by a cavalcade mash-up of iconic British soundtrack. Mike Leigh gives a day in the comedic life of an East End used car dealer; a wonderful Eddie Marsan worried by the Mayan prediction of the end of the world in 2012. Kapadia makes a portrait of London, and a film about Londoners. In a throwback to the announcement of London winning the Olympic bid in 2005, and the tragedies of the following day, the city has taken a battering over the past seven years. Kapadia asks us to realise just what it is that makes it so wonderful, the greatest city in the world.
The London 2012 Festival films opened this week at selected Picturehouse cinemas and will be broadcast on Channel 4 and the BBC throughout summer.