Guess who’s coming for dinner? Icelandic offering Metalhead is one of the many noteworthy films that are on offer at this year’s HIFF.

LOVERS of cinema rejoice – Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy is on the horizon, being held from 18–28 September. Organised for the 27th occasion, this year sees more than 170 feature films and some 150 short films being screened.

Kicking off proceedings this year is opening film Whiplash. The debut film of Damien Chazelle, here Miles Teller’s young and talented drummer is accepted to a prime American jazz conservatory. The legendary J. K. Simmons plays his bandleader, who, in a change of pace for the fine comedic actor, demands nothing less than blood, sweat and tears from his star apprentice.

A documentary on British band Pulp also can be found on the opening day, with a screening and DJ performance being held at the opening club. Director Florian Habicht, producer Alex Boden and Pulp drummer Nick Banks will be on hand.

Elsewhere, as the festival unfolds, the bill is packed with numerous note-worthy flicks. Local films take a bow, with the Finnish Film Gala selection arriving in the shape of J-P Valkeapää’s road movie They Have Escaped, as two teenage outcasts head off on the run.

Excitingly, the latest from Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night is also screening. Following up their masterful The Kid with a Bike, here Marion Cotillard returns to work after sick leave only to find that her colleagues have all agreed to have her fired in order to secure their own bonuses. Advance word has been very positive.

The Love & Anarchy Gala film this year is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s much-anticipated The Dance of Reality, the surrealist director’s first film in 23 years.

Meanwhile, The Skeleton Twins offers some pitch-black comedy starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, as twins who reunite after ten years in bleak circumstances. Rebecca Zlotowski’s acclaimed Grand Central takes place in the surroundings of a nuclear plant as a young, unschooled man lands a job, falling in love with the boss’ wife in the process. HIFF frequentors of last year will recognise 2013’s festival guest Tahar Rahim (A Prophet, The Past), starring alongside Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color).

Premiering at Cannes this year to rave reviews, Abrerrahmane Sissoko’s Timbuktu follows events when fundamentalists take over a small Malian village and start interpreting sharia law in their own radical way.

Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Alejandro Fernández Almendra’s To Kill a Man can also be found on the bill, as the life of a man is turned upside down when local thugs start tormenting his family.

Fresh from the Midnight Sun Film Festival, Icelandic eccentricity is front and centre in Benedikt Erlingsson’s Of Horses and Men.

The festival closes with one the most anticipated films of the year: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Following the life of a six-year old boy through his childhood until he turns eighteen, the movie was filmed over the course of 12 years. Utilising the same cast for each shoot, this process allows viewers to witness them aging in real time with their characters.

Following on from the likes of Danny Boyle, John Woo, Gaspar Noé, Tilda Swinton, Jan Kounen, Aleksandr Sokurov, Baz Luhrmann, Philip Ridley, Nicolas Winding Refn and Jacques Audiard in previous years, the festival once again promises a number of guests in attendance in 2014.

Much, much more is on offer. Check out the website.

James O’Sullivan