Review: ‘Empire of Light,’ starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Toby Jones and Colin Firth

December 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman in “Empire of Light” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“Empire of Light”

Directed by Sam Mendes

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily on the southeast coast of England, from December 1980 to August or September 1981, the dramatic film “Empire of Light” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A white woman in her late 40s and a black man in his early 20s, who work together at a movie theater, become intimate friends as she deals with mental illness and he deals with racism. 

Culture Audience: “Empire of Light” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Sam Mendes, star Olivia Colman and movies about misunderstood misfits that overload on melodrama that doesn’t always look authentic.

Pictured from left to right: Micheal Ward, Roman Hayeck-Green, Olivia Colman and Toby Jones in “Empire of Light” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

Considering that so many Oscar winners were involved in making the disappointing drama “Empire of Light,” it’s unfortunate that the movie’s story devolves into an overwrought mess and then rushes to clean everything up in the last 10 minutes of the movie. Too late. The cast members, led by Olivia Colman (who won a Best Actress Academy Award for 2018’s “The Favourite”), give impressive performances. However, “Empire of Light” becomes too bloated with heavy concepts and preachy messages that often look forced and clumsy in the screenplay and direction.

The “Empire of Light” team also includes writer/director/producer Sam Mendes (Oscar-winning director of 1999’s “American Beauty”); cinematographer Roger Deakins (who won Oscars for the 2017 sci-fi sequel “Blade Runner 2049” and Mendes’ 2019 World War I drama “1917”); and costume designer Alexandra Byrne (who won an Oscar for 2007’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”). Their talents and the admirable skills of the production design team (led by Mark Tildesley) make “Empire of Light” look visually striking. But visuals alone don’t make a great movie.

Unfortunately, “Empire of Light” tries to cram in too many storylines of complicated real-life issues—mental illness, racism, workplace sexual misconduct—that eventually get the “soap opera” treatment in “Empire of Light,” when these issues deserved so much better care in a movie with filmmakers and cast members of this high quality. “Empire of Light” had its world premiere at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival, followed by screenings at several other major festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.

“Empire of Light” is not unwatchable. However, there are quite a few moments that are unintentionally cringeworthy—particularly when “Empire of Light” tries to make appreciation of movies and ska/rock music as some sort of “one size fits all” panacea for some of the characters’ major problems. The movie’s central relationship takes an “opposites attract” approach that doesn’t ring completely true, mainly because it’s intended to look like true love between friends, but it actually looks more like dysfunctional co-dependency.

“Empire of Light” takes place mostly in an unnamed city on the southeast coast of England. (The movie was actually filmed in Margate, England.) The story’s timeline spans from December 1980 to August or September 1981. Therefore, expect several references to the United Kingdom’s sociopolitical issues under prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s rule, such as the rise of racist skinhead culture; economic instability (often blamed on immigrants) stemming from the U.K.’s recovery from the 1970s recession; and fears about nuclear war.

It’s in this environment that Hilary Small (played by Colman) lives a very emotionally disconnected and lonely life in the beginning of the movie. Hilary is a never-married bachelorette in her late 40s. She has no children, no family members she’s in contact with, and no friends.

Hilary lives alone in a small apartment and spends her free time not doing much but staying in her apartment and occasionally going to a senior center, where she’s one of the youngest people there. An early scene in the movie shows Hilary being sociable enough that she participates in the senior center’s dances. However, she doesn’t make any meaningful emotional connections with anyone at this senior center.

Viewers soon find out that Hilary has been prescribed lithium by a public health professional named Dr. Laird (played by William Chubb), who encourages her to get psychiatric therapy counseling. (Lithium is commonly prescribed for bipolar disorder.) Hilary takes the lithium, but she doesn’t take the doctor’s advice to talk to a therapist. About halfway through the movie, more details emerge about Hilary’s mental state.

Hilary works as a duty manager/concessions supervisor at a movie multiplex called the Empire Theatre, located in an Art Deco-styled, seaside building that also used to have a combination ballroom/restaurant. As of now, the Empire just has three movie screens, but they are in large rooms decked out in red and gold Art Deco finery that has seen better days.

The unused parts of the building have gone into a state of disrepair and are off-limits to the public. Because the Empire has a limited number of screens, and the dilapidated ballroom is inoperable, the Empire doesn’t get rented out for a lot of events. However, England’s South Coast premiere of “Chariots of Fire” will soon be held at the theater. This premiere gala is the focus of one of the most dramatic scenes in “Empire of Light.”

The Empire has a small staff of people. In addition to Hilary, these staffers include:

  • Donald Ellis (played by Colin Firth), the Empire’s general manager, who is Hilary’s lecherous boss and who’s about 15 years older than Hilary.
  • Norman (played by Toby Jones), the theater projectionist, who is in his 50s and who takes his job very seriously.
  • Stephen Murray (played by Micheal Ward), a ticket taker/usher in his early 20s, who is the newest member of the staff, charming when he wants to be, and the only employee who isn’t white.
  • Neil (played by Tom Brooke), a box-office worker in his 40s, who is compassionate, witty and wryly observant of many things going on in this workplace.
  • Janine (played by Hannah Onslow), an 18-year-old ticket taker, who is a Mohawk-wearing party girl.
  • Frankie (played by Roman Hayeck-Green), Brian (played by Brian Fletcher) and Finn (played by Dougie Boyall), who are all ushers in their 20s, and who don’t say or do much in the story.

It’s shown early in the movie that Donald and Hilary are having a secret sexual relationship, with their trysts taking place in Donald’s office. Donald is married, and Hilary knows it, but Donald tells her that he and his wife Brenda (played by Sara Stewart) are in a passionless marriage where they no longer have sex. Donald expects Hilary to always say yes to him whenever he calls her into his office for their private “meetings.”

At first, Hilary seems to like the attention from Donald. But one evening, she’s alone at a restaurant and sees Donald and Brenda walk in and get seated at a table near hers. Seeing these two spouses together seems to trigger something in Hilary, and she quickly leaves the restaurant before ordering anything on the menu. Over time, Hilary starts to resent Donald for treating her like a meaningless fling. Her anger and resentment come out in different ways.

Meanwhile, Stephen has caught the attention of Janine, who tells Hilary and some other employees during Stephen’s first day on the job that she thinks Stephen is a hunk. Janine doesn’t notice that Hilary seems attracted to Stephen too. Hilary is very insecure about her physical appearance, so she thinks Stephen wouldn’t be attracted to Hilary. Whenever Hilary sees Stephen giving attention to or thinking about other women, Hilary pouts like spoiled schoolgirl.

Hilary gives Stephen a tour of the building on his first day as an Empire employee. He’s curious to see the top floor, which used to be a ballroom and restaurant. The top floor is roped-off with restricted access only meant for the theater’s management, but Hilary takes Stephen to the top floor anyway because he’s eager to see it. Even though this section of the building is run-down, Stephen is in awe of what used to be the grand architecture for this ballroom.

The top floor, whose windows have broken or missing glass, has become a home for several pigeons. Stephen notices that one of the pigeons has a broken wing. He rips his socks and uses them to construct a makeshift sling for the pigeon and asks Hilary to hold the pigeon while he wraps the sling around the bird. Hilary says she doesn’t really like pigeons, but she holds it, beause she wants to impress Stephen. Her spark of attraction to Stephen grows when she sees that he can be kind and gentle. She’s also surprised at how she likes holding this pigeon after all.

Later in the movie, another scene with this pigeon becomes another turning point in Stephen and Hilary’s relationship. These pigeon scenes are used as an obvious metaphor: Stephen helping the physically wounded pigeon is just like how Stephen helps an emotionally wounded Hilary. This metaphor is the movie’s obvious ploy at sentimentality, but it’s too “on the nose.” And to make things look even phonier, other things in “Empire of Light” present Stephen as almost saintly in the way he puts up with Hilary’s moodiness and nasty temper tantrums that she often inflicts on him.

New Year’s Eve is coming up, and Janine has invited Stephen to hang out with her and some of her friends at a nightclub to ring in the New Year. Stephen and Janine ask Hilary if she wants to join them, but Hilary politely declines by saying that going to nightclubs isn’t her thing. Hilary says her New Year’s Eve plans will be to watch annual New Year’s fireworks alone on the theater’s roof. Observant viewers will notice from Hilary’s facial expressions that she’s jealous that Stephen and Janine are going on a date for New Year’s Eve.

Later, Hilary takes her anger out on Stephen, when she notices Stephen and Janine mocking an elderly customer behind the customer’s back because the customer is hunched-over and walks slowly. Hilary shouts at Stephen in private for being unprofessional, and she tells him that being rude to customers is unacceptable. She also gives him a loud scolding for forgetting to give her the day’s ticket stubs at the end of his work shift.

On the night of New Year’s Eve, Hilary is on the roof, when she gets an unexpected visitor: Stephen. He tells Hilary that he left the nightclub where he and Janine had been partying because he doesn’t know Janine’s friends, and he felt uncomfortable that some people at the club were staring at him. (It’s Stephen’s way of saying that he felt that some people were being racist without coming out and saying it.)

Hilary is touched that Stephen would want to ring in the New Year with her. And this New Year’s Eve meet-up is the turning point in their relationship. Stephen says he’s sorry for being unprofessional on the job, while Hilary says she’s sorry that she yelled at him. And with that mutual apology, the ice is broken, and the beginning of a relationship starts to take shape.

During this conversation while they watch the New Year’s fireworks (it’s one of the movie’s highlights), Hilary and Stephen talk a little bit more about their lives. And they discover that they are two lonely and restless people who want more from their lives than what they are currently doing. Stephen is an aspiring architect who has been rejected by all the universities where he’s applied. Hilary tells him not to give up his dream and to keep trying to get into a university of his choice.

Hilary is feeling an emotional connection to Stephen, so after the New Year’s fireworks begin, she gives him a quick romantic kiss on the lips. He looks startled by this display of affection. An embarrassed Hilary makes a profuse, stammering apology, and quickly leaves, even though Stephen tells her that she doesn’t need to make an apology. The movie shows what Hilary and Stephen do about this mutual attraction that is both confusing and exciting for them.

Here’s where the movie has a big disconnect and failing: Viewers never find out anything meaningful about Hilary that’s not related to her job, her mental illness and her “daddy issues.” Hilary is unhappy with her life, but she never really articulates how she wants to change her life.

She hints that she didn’t expect to be working in a movie theater at her age. Hilary doesn’t even show an interest in the movies that are at the theater. What did she want to do her life then? Don’t expect “Empire of Light” to answer that question.

There are multiple scenes in the movie where Hilary goes on a rant about not wanting men to control her. As she blurts out in a manic confession to Stephen, it has a lot to do with her being a “daddy’s girl,” but her father cheated on Hilary’s abusive mother, and he asked Hilary to lie and cover up this infidelity. During another rant, she lists the names of random men whom she says have wronged her. But these are the only clues into what Hilary’s life was like when she was a girl or a young woman.

Hilary is irrationally jealous and insecure. She will have temper tantrums out of the blue, usually triggered when it looks like Stephen is thinking about other women. It happens in a scene where Hilary and Stephen take a trip to a deserted beach, go skinny dipping, and then make sand castles together. While making sand castles, Stephen mentions an ex-girlfriend who broke his heart, and he admits that he still thinks about this ex-love. When Stephen asks Hilary if she’s ever been in love, she avoids answering the question. And then almost immediately, Hilary verbally lashes out at Stephen with a man-hating tirade.

But the movie then abruptly cuts to Stephen and Hilary leaving on a bus, with both of them being pleasant with each other and acting like this awful argument didn’t even happen. It looks like bad film editing, but it’s really the movie’s awkward way of trying to show viewers that both Stephen and Hilary have serious issues with denial about Hilary being a loose cannon. Stephen will show time and time again that he’s a better friend to Hilary than she is to him.

Hilary’s jealousy of Janine, as well as Janine’s attraction to Stephen, are inexplicably dropped as a subplot when the movie later shows a montage of Hilary, Stephen and Janine hanging out with each other like they’re best friends forever. These three pals do things like go to a carnival and a roller skating rink together. Janine then gets sidelined in the movie for no reason at all. It’s an example of how “Empire of Light” has an erratic portrayal of these characters’ relationships.

That’s not the movie’s only problem. “Empire of Light” tries to make a big statement about the racism that Stephen experiences. But it’s with the tone that it matters more how Hilary is affected by having her eyes opened to racism, rather than placing more importance on how Stephen (who actually experiences racism in many painful ways) is affected by racism. The racism issues begin in the movie when Hilary, unbeknownst to Stephen, sees Stephen getting racially harassed by some white skinheads when Stephen is walking outside and minding his own business.

Later, Hilary witnesses Stephen encountering a racist customer named Mr. Cooper (played by Ron Cook), who lets it be known that he doesn’t want someone who looks like Stephen telling him the Empire’s rules of no outside food and drinks being allowed inside the theater. During a tension-filled exchange where Stephen maintains his composure and Mr. Cooper loses his temper and holds up the line of people behind him, Hilary tries to smooth things over and placate Mr. Cooper by telling him he can finish his outside food and drinks in the lobby.

Stephen nearly walks off the job in that incident, because he thinks that Hilary didn’t stand up for an employee being mistreated by a rude and racist customer, and instead Hilary was trying too hard to accommodate this toxic person. Hilary tries to make an excuse that what Mr. Cooper did wasn’t bad enough for Stephen to quit, but Hilary is missing the point: Stephen, who did nothing wrong and was following the rules, shouldn’t have to be the one to feel like he was guilty of doing something wrong, while the guilty person is being coddled by a manager who’s in charge of handling the situation. When Stephen points out this disparity to Hilary, she admits that he’s right, makes an apology, and begs Stephen not to quit.

Even though this scene accurately portrays how white people and black people can sometimes look at racist incidents differently, “Empire of Light” goes right back to treating Stephen as the character who’s supposed to make a very messed-up Hilary into a happy person. Hilary has some deep-seated issues that come to the surface and existed long before she met Stephen. It’s also no surprise when in the last third of the movie, “Empire of Light” uses racism as a way to contrive a melodramatic plot development that viewers can see coming as soon as this scene begins.

In addition, “Empire of Light” has a double standard in the problematic issue of a supervisor getting sexually involved with a subordinate. The movie makes Donald the “villain” because he abuses his power to have consensual sex with Hilary whenever he feels like it. Even though the sex between Donald and Hilary is consensual, it’s always at the demand of Donald.

However, when it looks like Hilary and Stephen are headed for a consensual sexual relationship, the movie doesn’t question the ethics of Hilary getting sexually involved with one of her subordinates. Stephen’s employment status at the Empire Theatre is also vulnerable because he’s a new employee. Hilary knows she’s got the upper hand and more power as Stephen’s boss, but the movie excuses Hilary for taking advantage of this imbalance of power when it comes to Stephen.

And frankly, based on the way Hilary sometimes treats Stephen like a doormat for her selfish purposes, it’s questionable how great this relationship is, even though “Empire of Light” desperately tries to put a “female empowerment” spin on it. Stephen does a lot for Hilary emotionally, but he doesn’t get much from her in return except companionship and some generic words of encouragement. None of this imbalance is given much scrutiny in the movie, because Stephen’s thoughts and feelings are treated as secondary to Hilary’s thoughts and feelings.

Stephen is never shown doing anything that proves he’s passionate about architecture, except mention that he wants to get a college degree in architecture. The last third of the movie makes a half-hearted attempt to show that Stephen has a life outside of his job. He gets re-acquainted with his ex-girlfriend Ruby (played by Crystal Clarke)—the ex who broke his heart—after she goes to the Empire to see a movie and unexpectedly finds out that Stephen works there. Stephen’s single mother Delia (played by Tanya Moodie), who’s an immigrant nurse from Trinidad, eventually meets Hilary under some stressful circumstances. But it’s forced into the movie as part of a subplot where it all comes back to putting an emphasis on how Hilary is affected.

“Empire of Light” shows Stephen being a dutiful and awestruck student of Norman, who teaches him how to operate the theater’s projector. The magic of the movies is a recurring theme in “Empire of Light,” which simplistically has Stephen encouraging Hilary to watch movies at the theater as a way to have some escape from her problems. Likewise, when Stephen (who’s a fan of interracial ska/rock bands like The Beat and The Specials) gets Hilary to listen to music from interracial ska/rock bands, the movie tritely shows Hilary telling Stephen that she now understands his culture after listening to some of these albums.

“Empire of Light” wants to be filled with important messages about life. And certainly, the cast members deliver adept performances when called to do their parts in scenes that look good on a technical level but fall short on an emotionally authentic level. No matter how much “Empire of Light” wants to portray it, you can’t truly understand a culture just by listening to a few albums. And you can’t force viewers with enough life experience to believe that Hilary and Stephen’s lopsided relationship is one where she ever really thought of him as an equal.

Searchlight Pictures released “Empire of Light” in select U.S. cinemas on December 9, 2022.

Review: ‘The Son’ (2022), starring Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath and Anthony Hopkins

December 10, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zen McGrath, Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman in “The Son” (Photo by Rekha Garton/See-Saw Films/Sony Pictures Classics)

“The Son” (2022)

Directed by Florian Zeller

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in New York City and briefly in Washington, D.C., the dramatic film “The Son” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A workaholic corporate lawyer, his ex-wife and his current wife struggle with understanding the depression of his 17-year-old son from his first marriage. 

Culture Audience: “The Son” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s stars and don’t mind watching movies about mental illness that awkwardly handle this serious subject matter.

Hugh Jackman and Vanessa Kirby in “The Son” (Photo by Rob Youngson/See-Saw Films/Sony Pictures Classics)

A talented cast can’t save “The Son,” a sloppily edited drama that mishandles issues about mental illness in a turgid and manipulative way. This is writer/director Florian Zeller’s sophomore slump as a feature filmmaker. Zeller triumphed with his feature-film directorial debut “The Father,” his stellar 2020 drama for which he and co-writer Christopher Hampton won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. “The Father,” which is based on Zeller’s play of the same name, is a story told from the perspective of an elderly British man who has dementia. Anthony Hopkins portrayed the person with dementia in the “The Father,” and Hopkins won an Oscar for Best Actor for this performance.

Zeller brought Hopkins in for a short scene (which lasts less than 10 minutes) in “The Son,” and this scene is one of the highlights of this very uneven and ultimately disappointing movie. “The Father” and “The Son” are not similar to each other all, except for the fact that both movies are based on Zeller’s stage plays of the same names, and both movies are about families coping with a loved one who has a mental illness. The title character in each movie is the one dealing with the mental health issues.

Zeller and Hampton teamed up again to co-write “The Son” screenplay. “The Son” had its world premiere at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival. It also made the rounds at several other film festivals in 2022, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and AFI Fest in Los Angeles. Being at these high-profile festivals might seem like the “The Son” is a “prestige picture,” but it’s more indicative of the movie’s star power than the quality of the film. “The Son’s” clumsy treatment of a complicated issues such as depression is a lot like what you would see on a TV-movie made for a basic cable network.

“The Son” covers a well-worn topic that’s been the subject of numerous movies and TV shows: A workaholic father’s absence from home ends up causing resentment from some of his family members, and he might spend the rest of the story trying to mend any broken relationships caused by his lack of attention to his family. Arguments, grudges and sometimes physical altercations then happen. And then, depending on how predictable the story wants to be, a truce is usually called and people go on a path toward healing.

“The Father” was told from the perspective of the title character, but “The Son” is not told from the perspective of the title character. Instead, “The Son” puts most of its efforts in showing the thoughts and feelings of the son’s father. Up until a certain point in the movie, “The Son” is a formulaic story of a family damaged by divorce and not knowing how to deal with mental illness. But perhaps in a misguided effort to not have a typical ending, “The Son” does something so off-putting in the film’s last 15 minutes, it essentially ruins the movie.

In “The Son,” Peter Miller (played by Hugh Jackman) is an ambitious attorney who works at a corporate firm in New York City. Viewers will soon see that Peter (who is in his 50s) is highly motivated to succeed, and he expects excellence from himself and everyone around him. Peter lives in an upscale New York City apartment with his second wife Beth (played by Vanessa Kirby), who’s about 20 years younger than Peter. Beth and Peter, who’ve been married for less than two years, are parents of an infant son named Theo (played by twins Felix Goddard and Max Goddard).

Conversations in the movie reveal that Beth and Peter had an affair while he was still married to his first wife Kate (played by Laura Dern), who was devastated when Peter left Kate to be with Beth. Peter and Beth met (ironically enough) at a wedding, and Beth knew from the beginning that Peter was married. Peter and Kate have a 17-year-old son named Nicholas (played by Zen McGrath), who is also emotionally wounded from his parents’ divorce. Kate has full custody of Nicholas, who lives with her in New York City.

Peter will soon find out how much Nicholas has resentment toward him and how depressed Nicholas is. It starts with a worried phone call from Kate, who tells Peter that she recently found out that Nicholas stopped going to school for almost a month. Nicholas pretended to her that he was going to school, but he was actually just spending time walking around the city, according to what he confesses later. When the school tried to contact Kate by phone and by email about Nicholas’ absence, Nicholas was able to intercept those messages until the truth came out.

Kate also tells Peter that she and Nicholas no longer get along with each other. “He’s not well,” Kate insists. Kate also ominously hints to Peter that Nicholas could be dangerous. She describes how Nicholas once looked at her with so much hatred, she thought he might physically hurt her. “He scares me, okay?” Kate says to Peter about Nicholas.

It’s reached a point where Kate (who feels helpless and confused) has reluctantly agreed to Nicholas’ request to live with Peter for the time being. Nicholas tells Peter why he wants to live with him when he describes how he fells about living with Kate: “When I’m here, I get too many dark ideas. I want to live with my little brother. Sometimes, I feel like I’m going crazy.”

Peter’s way of handling Nicholas’ problems is to try to find a logical solution. Peter tries to be understanding, but he often talks to Nicholas like a prosecutor interrogating a defense witness in court. At this point, Peter isn’t fully aware that Nicholas has a mental illness. Peter thinks Nicholas is just being a rebellious brat.

In one of the movie’s several emotionally charged conversations, Peter demands that Nicholas tell him what’s wrong. On the verge of tears, Nicholas tries to explain to Peter why he’s been skipping school: “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s life. It’s weighing me down.”

Peter tells Beth what’s going on with Nicholas and asks her if it will be okay if Nicholas lives with them for a while, even though it’s obvious that Peter has made up his mind that Nicholas will live with them. Kate and Peter also agree that Nicholas (a loner who has difficulty making friends) can transfer to another school. What they don’t do is try to get him into therapy. Peter is the type of person who thinks the family can solve this problem on their own.

At first, Beth is reluctant to have this troubled teen living with them when she’s already busy taking care of a newborn child. However, Beth agrees to let Nicholas live with them (they have an extra bedroom that Nicholas will have to himself) because she sees how much Peter wants to help Nicholas, and she doesn’t want to interfere in this father-son relationship. Beth has only known Nicholas for two years, so she feels she doesn’t have the right to make parental decisions about him.

The rest of “The Son” is a back-and-forth repetition of Nicholas seeming to improve while living with Peter and Beth, but then something happens to show that Nicholas is not doing very well at all. Eventually, Peter finds out that Nicholas self-harms by cutting himself. Peter and Kate go through various stages of denial, guilt, sadness and anger, while Beth has her guard up and doesn’t really want to deal with the family problems when they get too intense. Beth also has stepparent insecurities about how much a spouse cares about any children from a previous marriage, compared to how much the spouse cares about any children from the current marriage.

“The Son” has a not-very-interesting subplot about Peter getting a job offer to work for a U.S. senator from Delaware named Brian Hammer (played by Joseph Mydell), who wants to hire Peter for Senator Hammer’s re-election campaign. The job would require Peter to spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C., so Peter has to decide whether or not to take the job in the midst of all of his family problems. “The Son” uses this subplot as a way try to create some suspense over whether not Peter will accept this job offer. This decision isn’t as suspenseful as the movie wants it to be.

The Washington, D.C., area is also where Peter’s unnamed widower father (played by Hopkins) lives, so there’s a gripping scene where Peter visits his father while Peter is in the area to meet with Senator Hammer. It’s in this scene where viewers find out more about Peter’s family background and why Peter has the parenting style that he does. Even though Peter doesn’t want to admit it, he’s a lot like his father, when it comes to letting work get in the way of spending quality time with his family.

But unlike Peter, his father is cold, cruel and unapologetic for making work a higher priority than his family. Peter tells his father that Nicholas is now living with Peter, and this new living arrangement seems to be helping Nicholas with Nicholas’ problems. Instead of being concerned or empathetic about Nicholas, Peter’s father accuses Peter of telling him this information to make Peter look like a better father.

Peter denies it, of course. This unfair and paranoid accusation stirs up some deep-seated resentments, and Peter reminds his father how selfish he was not to visit Peter’s mother when she was dying in the hospital. Peter’s father responds this way: “Just fucking get over it.” Even though Hopkins has a standout scene in “The Son,” too many other scenes in the film are mired in predictability.

“The Son” puts so much emphasis on Peter, he’s the only main character who gets a backstory. The movie reveals nothing about the backgrounds of Kate and Beth, even though Kate has been Nicholas’ primary caretaking parent after the divorce, up until Nicholas began living with Peter and Beth. Viewers will never find out how Kate’s own upbringing affected her parenting skills.

The movie also gives no information about Nicholas’ background to indicate how long he’s been having these feelings of depression. Several times in the movie, Nicholas tells Peter that he blames Peter’s abandonment and the divorce for feeling depressed, but it all seems too convenient and intended to put Peter on a guilt trip. If Peter had been too busy with work to notice Nicholas’ problems, then what indications did Kate see? Don’t expect the movie to answer that question.

Instead, the most that viewers will see about Nicholas before he moved in with Peter are several cutesy flashbacks of a 6-year-old Nicholas (played by George Cobell) in happier times during a vacation that he took with his parents in Corsica. “The Son” keeps showing flashbacks of this family of three taking a trip on a small boat, and Peter teaching an adorable Nicholas how to swim in the sea. These superficial flashbacks are examples of lazy storytelling that doesn’t give viewers a chance to get to know Nicholas as a well-rounded person.

“The Son” gives no information about what Nicholas’ personality was like a few years before the divorce. It’s possible that he had depression when his parents were still married, but that information is never revealed or discussed in the movie. “The Son” brings up a lot of questions about Nicholas that the movie never answers. It’s a huge misstep in how this movie portrays its title character.

Considering these limitations, McGrath gives a compelling but not outstanding performance as Nicholas. A few times in the movie, Nicholas is described as looking “evil,” but the expression on his face just looks like he’s pouting and glaring like a spoiled child who didn’t get his way. People with enough life experience can see that Nicholas has depression problems, but he’s also very manipulative, and he knows how to make his parents (especially Peter) feel guilty about the divorce.

As for the other principal cast members, Dern gives an authentic performance for her underdeveloped Kate character when expressing the anguish of a parent who goes through what Kate goes through in the movie. Kirby gives some depth to what is essentially a “trophy wife” role, but so little is known about Beth, there’s only so much that Kirby can do with this often-aloof character. Beth also complains to Peter about how he spends more time at work than at home, which kind of makes her look like a ditz that she didn’t know he was a workaholic when she married him.

Ultimately, “The Son” comes across as a showboat movie for Jackman, because it spends so much time showing Peter’s life outside the home, as well as Peter’s feelings about his own “daddy issues.” Peter is supposed to be American, but Jackman’s native Australian accent can sometimes be heard in his performance of Peter, especially in scenes where Peter is shouting or arguing with someone. Jackman certainly delivers a heartfelt performance, but a lot of it seems overly calculated too, much like how the movie handles the most sensitive scenes.

Unfortunately, “The Son” has much bigger problems than actors trying too hard to be noticed in obvious “awards bait” roles. The movie’s editing is haphazard and sometimes baffling. For example, there’s a scene that’s interrupted by a five-second flashback of Peter and 6-year-old Nicholas frolicking in the water on that vacation. This brief flashback is so random and out-of-place, it makes you wonder why Zeller made such amateurish editing decisions for “The Son” when “The Father” was so brilliantly edited.

The last 15 minutes of “The Son” are what will really turn off viewers the most. The way the story ends is gimmicky and could easily be interpreted as crass exploitation, for the sake of having a “surprise” plot twist. If “The Son” intended to be respectful of people who deal with the same issues as the ones portrayed in this substandard movie, then “The Son” torpedoed any good will by conjuring up a truly awful ending that cannot be redeemed.

Sony Pictures Classics released “The Son” in select U.S. cinemas on November 25, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on December 16, 2022, and on January 20, 2023.

Review: ‘The Eternal Daughter,’ starring Tilda Swinton

December 4, 2022

by Carla Hay

Tilda Swinton in “The Eternal Daughter” (Photo by Sandro Kopp/A24)

“The Eternal Daughter”

Directed by Joanna Hogg

Culture Representation: Taking place in Wales, the dramatic film “The Eternal Daughter” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one black person and one person of South Asian heritage) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A screenwriter, who has writer’s block, checks into an isolated hotel with her mother, where memories and family secrets affect their stay at the hotel. 

Culture Audience: “The Eternal Daughter” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Tilda Swinton, filmmaker Joanna Hogg and movies with plots that blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

Carly-Sophia Davies and Tilda Swinton in “The Eternal Daughter” (Photo by Sandro Kopp/A24)

Tilda Swinton is in yet another artsy film that has quirky and neurotic characters. “The Eternal Daughter” takes place at a mysterious hotel. You’re either going to be fully on board with this type of movie, or you’re not. “The Eternal Daughter” made the rounds at several film festivals in 2022, including the Venice International Film Festival (where the movie had its world premiere), the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.

Written and directed by Joanna Hogg, “The Eternal Daughter” has a story enigma that’s very easy to solve. It’s the type of movie where viewers should be up for a ride where a lot of weird things happen. You can figure out early on what’s the root of the problem, and then just watch as Swinton delivers a compelling performance. Swinton has two roles in “The Eternal Daughter,” which is an automatic clue that can answer many questions put forth in the movie.

In “The Eternal Daughter” Swinton has the dual roles of screenwriter Julie Hart and Julie’s elderly mother Rosalind Hart. Julie is working on a movie about herself and her mother. They check into a stately old Moel Famau. hotel, which is a converted country mansion in Wales. (“The Eternal Daughter” was actually filmed at Souton Hall, a 15-bedroom Georgian estate, built in 1714, in Wales.) The purpose of this mother-daughter trip is so Julie and Rosalind can talk about Rosalind’s memories that Julie might use in her screenplay.

The atmosphere is ominous and tense from the moment that Julie and Rosalind arrive at the hotel on a very foggy night. Rosalind’s spaniel dog Louis is also with them. (The dog belongs to Swinton in real life.) The Julie character is supposed to be a version of “The Eternal Daughter” writer/director Hogg. Julie is the same character who was portrayed in her early 20s in Hogg’s 2019 film “The Souvenir” and 2021 film “The Souvenir Part II,” which both had Swinton’s daughter Honor Swinton Byrne in the starring role of young-adult Julie.

The hotel receptionist (played by Carly-Sophia Davies), who doesn’t have a name in “The Eternal Daughter,” tells Julie (who made the hotel reservation) that they have no record of her reservation, and the hotel is already booked up. Julie is understandably upset, and there’s some haggling back and forth before the receptionist finds a room for Julie and Rosalind. As far as Julie is concerned, this trip has gotten off to a very bad start.

The rest of “Eternal Daughter” involves a series of unnerving incidents and encounters that alarm and confuse Julie. At this very depressing hotel that doesn’t seem to know the meaning of well-lit rooms, Rosalind immediately notices she hasn’t seen any other hotel guests. Where are the other guests?

When Julie and Rosalind dine in the hotel’s small restaurant, the hotel receptionist is also their server at the restaurant. It’s another indication that this hotel isn’t as busy as the receptionist wants to say that it is. Why did the receptionist say that the hotel was booked up, when it obviously is not? The only other employee who’s seen at the hotel is a friendly groundskeeper/maintenance worker (played by Joseph Mydell), who also doesn’t have a name in the movie.

During the night, Julie’s sleep is interrupted by the sound of loud banging. When she tells the hotel receptionist about it, she’s assured that this matter will be resolved. But the banging continues. Is this a haunted hotel? If you’re thinking that “The Eternal Daughter” is Hogg’s version of “The Shining,” it’s not.

It’s enough to say that “The Eternal Daughter” is not a horror movie, so viewers should not watch “The Eternal Daughter” with expectations that it will be a scary film. “The Eternal Daughter” is a psychological drama that keeps viewers guessing about what might be real and what might be someone’s imagination. And whose reality is the truth?

“The Eternal Daughter” is sometimes bogged down by some very mundane conversations that Julie and Rosalind have about their family. These discussions are meant to make an increasingly agitated Julie feel a sense of normalcy in this hotel that she thinks is not normal at all. Julie is also feeling a lot of anxiety because she has writer’s block.

People who are looking for an elaborate mystery or non-stop suspense might be disappointed in “The Eternal Daughter.” The movie is really a showcase for how Swinton can convincingly play these two characters who have very different personalities. Julie is restless and on edge, while Rosalind is calmer and more passive. “The Eternal Daughter” is ultimately an intriguing statement on how family memories can shape people’s lives and how important it is to value the people who can share these memories.

A24 released “The Eternal Daughter” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on December 2, 2022.

Review: ‘Women Talking,’ starring Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand

December 3, 2022

by Carla Hay

Michelle McLeod, Sheila McCarthy, Liv McNeil, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Kate Hallett, Rooney Mara and Judith Ivey in “Women Talking” (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

“Women Talking”

Directed by Sarah Polley

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2010, in an unnamed part of the United States, the dramatic film “Women Talking” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: At a patriarchal religious colony, the colony’s women have conflicts in deciding what to do next when almost all of the men in the colony have temporarily left because they are dealing with legal problems related to several of the colony’s men being arrested for drugging and raping the colony’s women and girls. 

Culture Audience: “Women Talking” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the Miriam Toews book on which the movie is based; the stars of the movie; and well-acted dramas about female empowerment in oppressive and misgoynistic environments.

Ben Whishaw, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in “Women Talking” (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

“Women Talking” is an accurate description for this tension-filled drama, because most of the movie centers on conversations rather than a lot of physical action. Sarah Polley directed and wrote the adapted screenplay of “Women Talking,” which is based on Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name. The movie comes across as a stage play in many areas, but it’s a worthy cinematic adaptation of the book, mostly because of the admirable performances from the talented cast members. The pacing is sluggish in some parts of the movie. However, viewer interest can be maintained if people are curious to see how the story is going to end.

The “Women Talking” movie, which is set in 2010 in an unnamed part of the U.S., makes some interesting and unexpected changes to the book, but largely remains faithful to the story’s plot. (The movie was actually filmed in Canada’s Ontario province.) “Women Talking” had its world premiere at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. The movie than made the rounds at several other film festivals in 2022, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.

One of the main reasons why “Women Talking” looks so much like a stage play is that the movie is mostly confined to the rural and isolated property where this religious colony lives. Several of the movie’s best scenes take place in a hayloft, where crucial decisions (and several arguments) happen during a crisis that will affect the future of the colony. “Women Talking” is a fascinating psychological portrait of what oppression can do to people and how people can deal with trauma in different ways.

The movie begins with this statement: “What follows is an act of female imagination.” Even if viewers don’t know anything about the “Women Talking” book, the movie tells viewers in the first 10 minutes what the crisis is in this colony. Several men in the colony have been drugging and raping the colony’s women and girls. As a result, most of the men of the colony have been arrested, while the other men who have not been arrested have gone to the city to get the men bailed out and attend to other legal matters.

Before these rapes were discovered, the women and girls who were raped were told that by the men that their assault injuries were the work of ghosts or part of the rape victims’ imaginations. Much harder to explain were the underage pregnancies that resulted from these rapes with girls who were supposed to be virgins. Some of these rapes were also incestuous. Toews (who was raised as a Mennonite) has said in interviews that “Women Talking” was inspired by a real-life Mennonite colony in Bolivia, where several men were arrested in 2009 for drugging and raping the colony’s women and girls.

“Women Talking” never shows these rapes—only the aftermath. It’s a wise decision on the part of Polley and the other filmmakers, because what’s more important is for the movie to show how rape survivors can try to heal from the trauma instead of recreating the rapes in ways that could easily become exploitative. The movie never names the religion of this colony, but it’s implied that it’s an extremist Mennonite community, just like it is in the book.

In this community, the people are taught that the male gender is always superior to the female gender. The women of the colony are not allowed to get a formal education and don’t know how to read and write, whereas the men are allowed to be educated. The colony also preaches that anyone who disobeys what the men want will have eternal damnation in hell.

The women have an emergency meeting in a hayloft to vote on one of three options: (1) Stay and fight; (2) Leave; and (3) Do nothing. The first and second options get the most votes, but the votes are deadlocked in a tie. Most of “Women Talking” shows the women trying to break this stalemate by getting a majority vote for one of the options. Things are also complicated because some of the women have underage sons, so if the women choose to leave, they also have to decide if the boys will go with them.

There are three families involved in this grueling process:

Family #1

  • Agata Friesen (played by Judith Ivey), a level-headed matriarch, is emotionally torn because her two daughters have very different opinions about what to do.
  • Ona (played by Rooney Mara), Agata’s bachelorette eldest daughter who is pregnant by rape, is open-minded, believes in female empowerment, and is inclined to make the decision to leave.
  • Salome (played by Claire Foy), Agata’s married younger daughter, also believes in female empowerment, but outspoken and feisty Salome wants to stay and fight, because she’s furious about her 4-year-old daughter Miep (played by Emily Mitchell) being raped.
  • Neitje (played Liv McNeil), Agata’s granddaughter, who is in her mid-teens, is being raised by Salome because Neitje’s mother Mina (the younger sister of Ona and Salome) committed suicide after Neitje was raped.

Family #2

  • Greta Loewen (played by Sheila McCarthy) is a soft-spoken matriarch who is inclined to want to leave.
  • Mariche (played by Jessie Buckley), Greta’s elder married daughter who is sarcastic and cynical, wants to stay, but she is very skeptical that the women could win against the men in a fight.
  • Mejal (played by Michelle McLeod), Greta’s younger bachelorette daughter, is inclined to stay, and she’s considered the most rebellious and “unstable” of the group because she smokes cigarettes and sometimes has panic attacks.
  • Autje (played by Kate Hallett), Mariche’s daughter, who is about 13 years old, is the best friend of Neitje.

Family #3

  • Scarface Janz (played by Frances McDormand), a stern matriarch, is adamant about her decision to do nothing and firmly believes any other option will doom the women to an afterlife in hell.
  • Anna (played by Kira Guloien), Scarface’s adult daughter is quiet, passive, and seems to be living in fear of her domineering mother.
  • Helena (played Shayla Brown), Anna’s teenage daughter, just like Anna, doesn’t say much.

One of the movie’s departures from the book is that Neitje is the narrator, and she is speaking in the future to Ona’s child, who has now been born. Near the beginning of the movie, Neitje says in a voiceover narration: “I used to wonder who I would be if it hadn’t happened to me. I don’t care anymore.”

Only one man has been left behind on the property while the other men are in the city. His name is August Epp (played by Ben Whishaw), a kind and gentle teacher who has been allowed to come back to the colony to teach the boys of the colony. August spent most of his childhood in the colony, but when he was a boy, his parents were excommunicated from the colony for questioning the authority of the colony’s leaders. August helps the women by taking notes during the meeting and doing any other reading and writing that the women might need.

August has an additional motivation to help the women: He’s been in love with Ona for years, but she just wants August as a friend. August stays neutral during the women’s arguments and debates. However, it’s very obvious that he wants to be wherever Ona is.

Also part of the story is a mild-mannered teenager named Nettie (played by August Winter), who likes taking care of the colony’s younger kids. Nettie identifies as a transgender male who prefers to be called Melvin. (Winter is non-binary in real life.) Because this colony is isolated from the rest of society, the colony members (including Melvin) don’t know what transgender means, so many of the colony members treat Melvin as a girl who likes to dress and wear her hair like a boy.

Because this colony is very insular and doesn’t believe in using modern technology or cars, “Women Talking” often looks like it takes place in the mid-20th century. The biggest indication that the movie takes place in the 21st century is when a census employee drives his truck on the road near the property and uses a speaker to remind the residents to take the 2010 census. The Monkees’ 1968 hit “Daydream Believer” memorably plays on the speaker and is heard again later in the movie during the end credits.

The colony’s women hide themselves inside buildings when this census employee drives by, but Neitje and Autje run to the truck to have a friendly chat with the census taker. Things aren’t so friendly inside and outside the hayloft, as the debate continues over what to do, and as time is running out before the colony’s men return to the property. Some of the women think that if they stay, they can demand new rules for the colony, such as the right to be educated and to be treated equally. Others think the women and children are better off leaving and starting a new community on their own.

In this showcase for powerhouse acting talent, Foy and Buckley have the flashiest roles as the women who clash with each other the most. Salome is filled with defiance and rage and shouts things like, “I will burn in hell before I allow another man to satisfy his urges with the body of my 4-year-old daughter!” Mariche raises her voice too, but she also expresses her anger in some “are you insane” expressions on her face that are very entertaining to watch.

Whishaw’s sensitive and nuanced performance is thoroughly believable and sometimes heartbreaking, as August experiences unrequited love. Because he is the primary teacher the boys of the colony (who are all homeschooled), there are glimmers of hope that these boys will be raised to have more respect for women and girls than how they were taught before August returned to the colony. Rooney’s performance as Ona, who speaks in calm and measured tones, is very good, but Ona is often overshadowed by the sassiness of Salome and Mariche.

One aspect of “Women Talking” that might disappoint some viewers is that McDormand is only in the movie for less than 15 minutes. She’s one of the producers of “Women Talking” and shares top billing, but her on-screen appearance in the movie—although effective—still doesn’t seem like enough for someone McDormand’s high caliber of talent. In the production notes for “Women Talking,” McDormand explains: “I did not option the book with the idea of acting in the film, I optioned it because I wanted to produce a film based on the book, with Dede [Gardner, one of the producers] and Sarah [Polley]. But I love Scarface dramaturgically.”

Even with all the friction and arguments between the women, Polley’s thoughtful direction never lets the movie devolve into a “catfight” story. The women might not know how to read and write, but they are very articulate in exposing their wants, needs, hopes and dreams. Luc Montpellier’s brown-tinged cinematography in “Women Talking” might look dull to some viewers, but it’s supposed to be a reflection of the drab existence that the colony’s women have experienced for too long. Observant viewers will notice that scenes that have more hopeful emotions have more vibrant lighting.

“Women Talking” is not a man-bashing film, as some people might mistakenly think it is. It’s a movie against gender oppression and against sexual violence. The villains of the story are not given the type of agency and screen time that other filmmakers would choose to put in their version of “Women Talking.”

“Women Talking” is not the type movie that people will quickly forget after watching it. Whether people like or dislike the movie, “Women Talking” is the type of film that will inspire thought-provoking discussions for viewers. And that’s an indication of cinematic art that can make an impact.

Orion Pictures will release “Women Talking” in select U.S. cinemas on December 23, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on January 20, 2023.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival inaugural event features partnerships with YouTube and several film festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto and London

April 27, 2020

 

The following is a press release from We Are One: A Global Film Festival:

Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube jointly announced today We Are One: A Global Film Festival, an unprecedented 10-day digital film festival exclusively on YouTube, bringing together an international community of storytellers to present festival programming for free to audiences around the world. Set to begin on May 29, 2020, on YouTube.com/WeAreOne, the festival will feature programming curated by the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and moKarlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and more, immersing audiences in stories from around the world and providing a voice for filmmakers on a global stage.

 Core to the DNA of film festivals is the belief that artists and creators have the power to bring people together and create meaningful connections during a time when the world needs it most. Through We Are One: A Global Film Festival, audiences will not only get a peek into different cultures through a new lens, they’ll be able to support local communities by directly donating to organizations helping the relief efforts for those affected by COVID-19. The festival will benefit the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as local relief partners in each region.

“We often talk about film’s uniquely powerful role in inspiring and uniting people across borders and differences to help heal the world. All of the world needs healing right now,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “We Are One: A Global Film Festival unites curators, artists and storytellers to entertain and provide relief to audiences worldwide. In working with our extraordinary festival partners and YouTube we hope that everyone gets a taste of what makes each festival so unique and appreciates the art and power of film.”

“One of the most unique and inspiring aspects of the world staying home is our ability to come together and experience an event as one, and We Are One: A Global Film Festival is just that,” said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube. “Along with Tribeca Enterprises and our incredible partners, we are bringing fans the opportunity to experience the curated programming each of these festivals provides as part of our ten-day long event. It’s an event that’s never been done before and we’re proud to be the home for this fantastic content that is free to fans around the world.”

“We are proud to join with our partner festivals to spotlight truly extraordinary films and talent, allowing audiences to experience both the nuances of storytelling from around the world and the artistic personalities of each festival,” said Pierre Lescure, President of the Cannes Film Festival, and Thierry Frémaux, Cannes Film Festival General Delegate.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will run from May 29 – June 7, 2020, on YouTube.com/WeAreOne. Programming will be available for free, and will include films, shorts, documentaries, music, comedy, and conversations. A full schedule will be available closer to the festival start date.

About Tribeca Enterprises

Tribeca Enterprises is a multi-platform storytelling company, established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Tribeca provides artists with unique platforms to expand the audience for their work and broadens consumer access to experience storytelling, independent film, and media. The company operates a network of entertainment businesses including the Tribeca Film Festival; the Tribeca TV Festival; and its branded entertainment production arm, Tribeca Studios.

About YouTube

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company.

2019 BFI London Festival: programming slate announced

August 29, 2019

The following is a press release from the BFI London Film Festival:

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival (LFF) in partnership with American  Express announces its full programme, presenting 229 feature films from some of the world’s greatest filmmakers and emerging talent.

For 12 days from 2-13 October 2019 the  LFF  will celebrate the diverse landscape of international cinema, showcasing films set to entertain and inspire, provoke debate and tackle the urgent issues of our time.

Amanda Nevill, CEO, BFI said  “At this moment when the UK is adapting and reshaping our place in the world, the BFI London Film Festival really underlines the soft power of the art of film and showcases the dynamism of global exchange and partnership. All the BFI’s cultural programmes, from BFI Southbank to BFI Player, have sought to be an active champion at the heart of the global cinema story and this year’s LFF does this so powerfully with its incredibly rich and diverse programme and the international filmmaking community who love being here.’

Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director said, “In its 63rd year, BFI London Film Festival is one of the world’s  great public film fests. And that greatness comes from the fact that we serve one of the most vibrant and international cities in the world and welcome voracious, adventurous and cineliterate audiences. While there are many talking points emerging from this year’s programme, a few really leap out: the strong instinct from filmmakers to explore urgent social and political issues through narrative and often through the use of genre; the striking emergence of a a new generation of filmmakers exploding onto the international stage with startlingly bold, original and ambitious debuts; the continuing and welcome trend of increased gender balance in directing talent behind short film, first and second features. And while we so delighted to see work from 78 countries in the Festival, we also love welcoming a particularly exceptional new wave of UK based filmmakers with cracking first and second feature films in LFF. ”

As Britain’s leading cinema event and one of the world’s most important film festivals, the programme offers UK  audiences the chance to see some of the most anticipated new films from around the globe, including a host of new works destined to be major awards contenders. This October, the Festival will present 28 World Premieres, 12 International Premieres and 28 European Premieres, welcoming an impressive line up of first-class filmmakers and acting talent.

The programme presents stories from a broad range of voices, continuing to support both home-grown cinema and international productions. 78 countries are represented across short films and features, with 40% of all films directed
or co-directed by women.  The Festival continues to act as a launch pad for debut filmmakers, often supporting them throughout their career, demonstrated by returning Festival alumni in this year’s programme. The 229 feature films screening include: 41 documentaries, 7 animations, 13 archive restorations and 7 artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 116 short films.

The Competitive sections serve to recognise remarkable creative achievements from British and international filmmakers. Winners are selected by hand-picked juries across four categories: Official Competition, First Feature, Documentary and Short Film. Last year, audiences were placed at the heart of the awards celebrations  for the first time, when the winning film from each section was presented to the public as a surprise screening, following the on-stage announcement of the winner. Building on last year’s sell-out success, audiences will once again have the chance to buy tickets to these awards screenings and be part of the proceedings.

This year sees the return of Odeon’s iconic flagship cinema, the redesigned ODEON Luxe Leicester Square. Each night of the Festival, a Headline Gala will screen in flawless 4k projection with pitch-perfect Dolby® Atmos sound. Luxe recliners offer space and comfort, ensuring every seat in the 800 seater venue is the best in the house. Films in Official Competition will be presented at the Vue West End and once again the festival’s beautiful 800-seat purpose-built venue Embankment Garden Cinema will be housed in the tranquil surroundings of Victoria Embankment Gardens. First built for the Festival in 2016, this state-of-the-art venue is constructed to the highest technical specifications with raked seating, Christie Digital 4k RGB pure laser illuminated projection and Dolby® 7.1 surround sound, with audiences and filmmakers alike praising its quality of cinema experience.

Alongside the Galas, Special Presentations and films in Competition, the Festival will show a range of new world cinema in sections Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Experimenta and Family – which provide pathways for audiences to navigate the extensive programme.

Cinemagoers across the UK will have the opportunity to be part of the closing night celebrations, with simulcast screenings of Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN, bringing the excitement of the Leicester Square premiere to cinemas nationwide. Continuing the Festival’s offering to audiences outside of London, screenings of three new films will be brought to young film lovers, with curated screenings across the UK for primary and secondary schools as part of the  LFF Education Programme.

LFF Connects gives audiences the chance to hear from creative leaders working at the intersection of film and other creative industries. The Festival’s acclaimed Screen Talks offer a series of in-depth interviews with leaders in contemporary cinema. Participants confirmed so far include directors Rian Johnson, Kim Longinotto and Lukas Moodysson, with more to be announced nearer the Festival.

The Festival continues to develop its offering of both industry and public events. Audiences will have the chance to join in the film chat and soak up all the atmosphere at the official social hub down at BFI Southbank, where they can take part in free events. Designed to take you behind the scenes and get conversations flowing, events will include talks and debates, book signings, live DJ club nights and free short film screenings.

The Festival will partner with a host of London cinemas, with its films playing on 18 screens at 12 venues across the capital: BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Ciné Lumière, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Embankment Garden Cinema, Empire Haymarket, the ICA, ODEON Luxe Leicester Square, ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Prince Charles Cinema and Vue West End.

OPENING & CLOSING NIGHT GALAS 

As previously announced,  this year’s Opening Night gala will be THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD, directed by the multi-award-winning writer, filmmaker and broadcaster Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin) and starring BAFTA Award winner Dev Patel as David Copperfield. The film will receive its European Premiere on Wednesday 2nd October at ODEON Luxe Leicester Square. This fresh take on Charles Dickens’ classic novel boasts a stellar British cast, led by Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Paul Whitehouse and Gwendoline Christie, many of whom are expected on the red carpet in Leicester Square.

The Festival closes with the International Premiere of THE IRISHMAN, directed by one of the true giants of cinema, Martin Scorsese (Silence, The Departed), and starring Academy Award® winners Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. A film that has been many years in the making, THE IRISHMAN is a grand scale epic examining the influence of organised crime in post-war America. The festival is delighted to be bringing the work of this iconic filmmaker to the UK on Sunday 13th October in London, where there will be simultaneous preview screenings of THE IRISHMAN taking place at cinemas across the UK.

GALAS 

HEADLINE GALAS  The American Express Gala is the European Premiere of KNIVES OUT, a fresh take on a classic ‘whodunit’ written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper). A stylish tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie, KNIVES OUT is a fun, modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. A witty delight for film fans, the film features a starstudded cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford and Christopher Plummer. The film will premiere on Tuesday, 8th October at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square.

The Mayor of London’s Gala sees Academy Award® winner Eddie Redmayne and Academy Award® nominee Felicity Jones reunite on screen, as aerial explorers in THE AERONAUTS. This heart-racing adventure story directed by longtime festival favourite Tom Harper (Wild Rose, LFF 2018) and written by Jack Thorne (The Scouting Book for Boys, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) captures the audacity and romance of the Victorian race into the air, with special effects that will transport you to the skies as we follow Amelia Wren (Jones) and James Glaisher (Redmayne) on mankind’s highest ever balloon voyage.

Starring Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks as beloved television entertainer Fred Rogers, the BFI Patrons’ Gala, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, sees director Marielle Heller return to the festival after premiering her second feature Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year. The film is the perfect antidote for uneasy times and will melt the coldest of hearts. Matthew Rhys is excellent as magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (based on journalist Tom Junod) who is commissioned to write an article on the presenter. Regarding Rogers as a monolith of an unfashionable past, he asks: ‘Could anyone really be so good, so kind?’ But on spending more time with Rogers, Vogel begins to question his own misanthropic outlook.

British director Michael Winterbottom (The Trip, The Wedding Guest) brings us a sharp-tongued and timely satire in the Headline Gala European Premiere of GREED. The film stars Steve Coogan as Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie, a highstreet retail tycoon who throws a lavish, Rome-themed 60th birthday bash to prove he’s still on top after a recent spate of fraud investigations. As guests start arriving, including McCreadie’s ex-wife (Isla Fisher), his empire starts to fall apart at the seams. Featuring a vast ensemble cast that includes Shirley Henderson and David Mitchell, this entertaining and anarchic farce pits humour against the 1%.

Celebrated screenwriter William Nicholson (Les Miserables, Gladiator, Shadowlands) directs Annette Bening and Bill Nighy in the Headline Gala HOPE GAP, a witty divorce drama that depicts a couple in their 60s as they face the end of their marriage after 29 years. Josh O’Connor plays their son, who discovers, on returning to his parents bohemian coastal home for the weekend, that his father has had enough and his bags are packed. Shot with a ravishing sense of design and colour, making the most of its lush English coastline, this is an emotionally astute portrait of a marriage; of regrets uncovered, decisions made too late and the precariousness of hope.

Taika Waititi’s JOJO RABBIT will receive its European Premiere in this exuberant and satirical Headline Gala. Jojo is a game, if somewhat inept, member of the Hitler Youth; his closest friend, an imaginary Adolf Hitler (Waititi, on hilarious form). When he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie,
Leave No Trace) in their house, Jojo must go to war with his own conscience. Tackling the ludicrousness of racism and nationalism, Waititi has also crafted a film of great emotional charge and tenderness. Amongst an illustrious cast of comic greats including Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant, Johansson dazzles on screen with one of her most charismatic performances.

This year’s American Airlines Gala, the UK Premiere of THE KING, stars Timothée Chalamet in David Michôd’s (Animal Kingdom, The Rover) visceral portrait of Henry V. The startling transformation undertaken by Hal in Shakespeare’s Henriad series, from the fun-loving prince into the all-powerful monarch, is one of literature’s most acute character studies. Here, Michôd and co-screenwriter and star Joel Edgerton adapt those texts to explore how a reluctant monarch took the crown and found himself embroiled in the very same wars he despised his father for. The superbly talented supporting cast includes Lily-Rose Depp as Catherine, future Queen of England, Ben Mendelsohn as Henry IV and Robert Pattinson as a particularly spicy Dauphin, heir to the French throne.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in the UK Premiere of LE MANS ’66, a study of friendship that shaped 1960s motor racing, brimming with old-school Hollywood charm. Working from an excellent script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, director James Mangold (Logan) hooks you from the first scene and never lets go.

The May Fair Hotel Gala is MARRIAGE STORY, directed by Noah Baumbach (While We’re Young, Frances Ha) and starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as an ill-fated couple who are married, have a son and run a theatre company together. Arguably Baumbach’s most personal film to date, MARRIAGE STORY charts the unravelling of their marriage, often with bitter hilarity in even the most desolate of scenes. Baumbach shoots on gorgeous 35mm with a 1.66 aspect ratio that foregrounds performance, often with startling long takes.

FESTIVAL AND STRAND GALAS 

Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s (Jackie) EMA is this year’s Festival Gala, starring the superb Gael García Bernal and featuring a spellbinding lead performance from newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo. In this character study of a beguiling woman ruled by heart and impulse, Larraín paints a picture of talented contemporary street/reggaeton dancer and teacher Ema. Larraín’s film intersperses explosive, intoxicating scenes of dance amidst dramatic moments that are fractured in time.

The Family Gala is the UK Premiere of Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman’s ABOMINABLE. This latest animated tale from Dreamworks is a fun, fast-paced action adventure about a little girl and her yeti companion in a race-against-time trip from China to the Himalayas. Boasting a compelling story and breathtaking visuals, ABOMINABLE is as beautiful as it is funny and exciting.

Kleber Mendonça Filho (Neighbouring Sounds) and Juliano Dornelles’ critically acclaimed BACURAU, winner of the Cannes Jury Prize 2019, features as this year’s Thrill Gala. This futuristic, sardonic and complex thriller explores the lives of misfits, mixed-heritage outsiders, whores, hippies and queers. They live in the margins in a dusty little town that has been wiped clean off the map by the middle-class elite from the north, who are busy ingratiating themselves, selling their country and its people to rich European and American interests.

This year’s Laugh Gala, THE DUDE IN ME from director Hyo-jin Kang, is a sassy body-swap comedy from South Korea, which tells the story of a ballsy gangster who accidentally possesses a timid schoolboy. Employing dry humour to undercut macho culture, the film finds fresh twists to a classic premise, resulting in an upbeat, poptastic entertainment that sustains its surprisingly sweet energy and laughs to the last.

Mirrah Foulkes’ JUDY & PUNCH features as the Dare Gala. Prepare for an audaciously brilliant first feature, with Mia Wasikowska splendid in this fairy tale with a feminine twist. Foulkes creates an origin story of sorts, but one that reimagines what might have happened if Judy decided not to take Punch’s incessant battery quite so meekly.

Acclaimed filmmaker Robert Eggers, the Sutherland Award-winning director of The Witch, returns to terrorise audiences with his masterful maritime shocker THE LIGHTHOUSE, which is this year’s Cult Gala. Once seen, never
forgotten, this hypnotic fusion of beauty and brutality is truly the stuff of nightmares, boasting extraordinary performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as a downtrodden lackey and baiting slave driver at the begrimed lighthouse where they’ve been assigned to work together for four weeks.

OFFICIAL SECRETS is filmmaker Gavin Hood’s (Eye in the Sky) sharp political thriller, about a key moment in the history of the Iraq conflict, opening as this year’s Debate Gala. It follows the story of Katharine Gun, an ordinary government contract worker faced with an extraordinary choice: in 2003, on the eve of the UK-US invasion of Iraq, Gun intercepted communications that revealed the UK was being asked to spy on UN Security Council Members to help influence votes sanctioning the Iraq invasion. Keira Knightley gives an excellent performance as Gun, alongside a strong ensemble cast that includes Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode and Rhys Ifans.

The Love Gala, in association with Malta Tourism Authority, is the UK Premiere of Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson’s effortlessly charming buddy movie, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON, about a young man in pursuit of his dreams. Zak, a restless 22-year old with Down’s Syndrome, is frustrated by the slow pace of life at his nursing home. Itching for some excitement, he hatches a plan to meet his idol, a pro wrestler named The Salt Water Redneck. Zak makes a break from his geriatric prison with his worried carer in hot pursuit.

This year’s Journey Gala is the thrillingly cinematic two-hander from Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener), THE TWO POPES, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as a pair of men tussling over the future of the Catholic Church. Disullusioned Jorge Bergoglio (Pryce) is a strong contender for the revered position of head of the Church but is relieved when Joseph Ratzinger (Hopkins) gets the top job and becomes Pope Benedict XVI. When the two men are brought together over one summer, their clash of ideologies make for a passionate debate.

The European Premiere of WESTERN STARS sees global music legend Bruce Springsteen perform the entirety of his 19th studio release in this year’s Create Gala, co-directed by Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen. Resolved  that he would not be taking the record on tour, Springsteen, collaborating with Zimny, opted instead to produce a feature-length film as a means of bringing the live experience to music lovers across the world. Set in the atmospheric surroundings of a majestic old barn, Springsteen’s elegiac ode to the American West blends lush orchestration with emotional tenderness. Springsteen (joined by wife Patti Scialfa, a small orchestra and a handful of accompanying musicians) reflects on the songs and ruminates on the loves, challenges and regrets he has faced in his own life.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkwlSLcjwfI

Eleven Special Presentations shine the spotlight on new work from major directors.

The eagerly awaited follow-up to Cory Finley’s explosive debut Thoroughbreds (LFF 2017) is his BAD EDUCATION, which screens as a Special Presentation in association with Empire. Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney star in this school-set political thriller based on the true story of an embezzlement scandal that rocked the New York school system.

One of the UK’s classiest cinematic storytellers, Roger Michell (Enduring Love, Le Week-End, Notting Hill) directs BLACKBIRD, a deeply moving and satisfying drama about the complexity of family love.

A glorious love letter to life and love in Mumbai, BOMBAY ROSE, from feature debut director and screenwriter Gitanjali Rao, is both epic and personal. Rao’s exquisite animation allows characters to move seamlessly between real and imagined worlds, in this delicate and nuanced collection of stories.

Oscar-nominated Feras Fayyad’s (Last Men in Aleppo) essential film THE CAVE tells the harrowing story of an underground Syrian hospital and its extraordinary staff. Fayyad crafts an urgent and poignant testimony of the humanity of the hospital staff, who risk their lives to maintain the health and hopes of the people they treat. But the film is also a call to action – a demand for a response to this intolerable humanitarian crisis.

Prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike proves in FIRST LOVE that he still has much to explore in the yakuza world, even after 2015’s anarchic, bloody vampire flick-crime movie mash-up Yakuza Apocalypse. This time employing a love story as a counterpoint to the intrigues of the Tokyo underworld, the film follows a young boxer on the brink of death as he falls in love with a woman caught in the crossfire between yakuza and triad gangs in a fight over stolen drugs.

Last seen at LFF with 2013’s widely adored girl-punk charmer We Are the Best!, Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson returns with his first foray into episodic television in Special Presentation GÖSTA. The focus of this loving satire is on its extremely kind title character, the nicest child psychologist in provincial Sweden. Affectionately lampooning youthful idealism, Moodysson’s empathetic storytelling transfers perfectly to the small screen.

A collaboration between two award-winning directors returning to the Festival, Anocha Suwichakornpong and Ben Rivers, the Experimenta Special Presentation is KRABI, 2562. The two merge their unique cinematic languages across reality and folklore in the eponymous tourist town, to create an absorbing and playful portrait of a people, place and time that makes for a series of haunting vignettes on the legacy of our age.

Featuring Britain’s biggest star of the 1920s, the ‘Queen of Happiness’ Betty Balfour, this year’s Archive Special Presentation is LOVE, LIFE AND LAUGHTER. The discovery of this cinematic treasure, lost for nearly a century, is a major event. Telling the story of a pair of working-class youngsters with big dreams, the film was rediscovered when an incomplete Dutch-language version was identified by archivists at EYE Filmmuseum in the Netherlands. This has been painstakingly pieced together by our restoration team with new English intertitles, bringing back to life a truly vivacious performance from Balfour.

Another Special Presentation is OUR LADIES, a loving adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos by veteran director Michael Caton-Jones (The Jackal, Basic Instinct 2) and a perfect evocation of being young and riotously alive in mid-90s Scotland. Following a rebellious group of six teenage choirgirls on a day trip to a singing competition in Edinburgh, this unvarnished coming-of-age saga features brilliant central performances from young actors Eve Austin, Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham, Rona Morison and Marli Siu.

The BFI Flare Special Presentation in association with Sight & Sound is PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE; a female portrait painter falls in love with her subject in Céline Sciamma’s perfect new film. Whilst a devastatingly effective story of love set against impossible social and cultural barriers, it is also a film that redefines the construction of the gaze – of the protagonist, the camera, and the viewer – on the female form. It’s Céline Sciamma on fire.

The final Special Presentation is ROCKS, a vibrant and hugely engaging portrait of female friendship and growing up in London, from director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane, Suffragette). Based on a script from award-winning playwright Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, the drama was developed through extensive workshops with the female cast, all of whom were discovered through casting sessions at schools. With magnetic performances across the board – particularly from Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali and Shaneigha-Monik Greyson – ROCKS gives voice to London girls who have something to say.

Key filmmaking talent expected to attend the Festival’s Gala and Special Presentation screenings include:   Armando Iannucci, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Stephen Graham, Rian Johnson, Tom Harper, Marielle Heller, Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan, William Nicholson, Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Alfie Allen, Archie Yates, David Michôd, Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Tom Glynn-Carney, James Mangold, Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, David Heyman, Pablo Larraín, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, Mirrah Foulkes, Robert Eggers, Gavin Hood, Keira Knightley, Katharine Gun, Martin Bright, Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson, Zack Gottsagen, Fernando Meirelles, Jonathan Pryce, Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen, Cory Finley, Hugh Jackman, Roger Michell, Gitanjali Rao, Feras Fayyad, Jeremy Thomas, Lukas Moodysson, Ben Rivers, Michael Caton-Jones, Céline Sciamma, Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Sarah Gavron.

AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS 

The BFI London Film Festival Awards celebrate the creative achievements of British and international filmmakers showcased in our Competitive sections, aiming to honour inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking across each of the four categories.

The winners in each competition are selected by festival juries, and, following last year’s reboot of the Awards format, will all be available for the public to book as an additional surprise screening. Preceding each will be the presentation of the award by BFI London Film Festival Director Tricia Tuttle and the Jury Chair to the winning filmmaker.

The Festival is delighted to make audiences a key part of the Awards celebration and increase their chances of seeing the very best new films on offer, all of which is vital to the Festival’s mission of inclusion and accessibility for all.

The Jury for each category will be announced ahead of the opening of the Festival.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION 

As previously announced, the Best Film Award in Official Competition recognises inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, and includes the following shortlisted titles:

• FANNY LYE DELIVER’D, Thomas Clay’s intoxicating 17th Century drama with Maxine Peake in the title role

• HONEY BOY, Alma Har’el’s artful and soul-baring examination of the lingering effects of emotional abuse, written by Shia LaBeouf, who stars alongside Lucas Hedges

• LINGUA FRANCA, a beautifully performed character study of a Filipino transwoman and undocumented  immigrant in Brooklyn, from writer/director Isabel Sandoval, who also takes on the lead role

• LA LLORONA, Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante’s taut genre-bending thriller about an elderly general haunted by a spectre of the past during his trial for genocide

• MOFFIE, Oliver Hermanus’ haunting examination of the violent persecution of gay men under Apartheid

• MONOS, a hallucinogenic, intoxicating thriller by Alejandro Landes about child soldiers high in the mountains of South America

• THE OTHER LAMB, Małgorzata Szumowska’s beguiling, genre-tinged English-language debut examining life in an otherworldly cult

• THE PERFECT CANDIDATE, Haifaa Al Mansour’s inspiring drama about a young doctor who becomes an  electoral candidate to challenge Saudi Arabia’s strict social codes

• ROSE PLAYS JULIE, an immersive and gripping drama from directing duo Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor about a young woman seeking her biological mother

• SAINT MAUD, the debut feature from director Rose Glass, in which a mysterious nurse becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient.

FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION – SUTHERLAND AWARD

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

ATLANTICS (Dir. Mati Diop). A hypnotic, genre-shifting portrait of a girl’s awakening. When Souleiman grows tired of labouring without pay on the gleaming towers of Dakar, he sets out across the sea with friends, leaving Ada to face impending marriage to another man. But as the women gather in the bar where the men used to drink, it seems that something has returned to them.

BABYTEETH (Dir. Shannon Murphy). A feverish Australian drama featuring a superb performance by breakout star Eliza Scanlen as Milla, a seriously ill teenage girl who falls madly in love with a young drug dealer. Milla’s infatuation with the dodgy-but-charming Toby leaves her parents, Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) and Anna (Essie Davis) faced with a tricky dilemma.

CALM WITH HORSES (Dir. Nick Rowland). Cosmo Jarvis gives a visceral performance in Rowland’s gripping feature debut as Douglas, the hired muscle for a crime family in rural Ireland. As he becomes embroiled in a violent pageant of retribution, the time soon comes for Douglas to choose sides.

HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD (Dir. Bora Kim). Announcing a bright new voice in South Korean cinema, Kim brings both humour and elegance to her autobiographical debut in this absorbing coming-of-age drama about teenager Eunhee and her dysfunctional Seoul family circa 1994.

INSTINCT (Dir. Halina Reijn). Carice van Houten plays respected clinical psychologist Nicoline, who after starting a new job at a penal institution finds herself flirting with danger in her sessions with inmate Idris. Soon, the boundaries between doctor and patient begin to blur as tensions escalate.

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (Dir. Joe Talbot). Jimmie dreams of reclaiming the beautiful late 19th-century home his grandfather built, before hard times and changing demographics forced his family out. He and best friend Mont scheme to make the dream a reality, in Talbot and writer-performer Jimmie Fails’s gorgeous, inventive meditation on art, architecture, black culture and gentrification in California’s Bay Area.

MAKE UP (Dir. Claire Oakley). A riveting psycho-sexual drama in which teenager Ruth travels to a seaside holiday park to stay with her boyfriend Tom, and one day finds evidence he might be cheating on her. As her desire to uncover the truth turns into an obsession, she begins to realise she might be looking for something else entirely.

RELATIVITY (Dir. Mariko Minoguchi). It is love at first sight when Nora and Aaron first meet on a rainy day in an underground station, but Aaron’s fate takes a dramatic turn and changes Nora’s life in an instant. Minoguchi’s debut is a romantic narrative of ambitious proportions, effortlessly looping between the present and past while making clever use of cinema as an unfurling emotional landscape.

SCALES (Dir. Shahad Ameen). A visually resplendent tale set in a small Gulf fishing village, where the population live in thrall to the otherworldly creatures of the sea. The inhabitants traditionally sacrifice female children to them until one of those girls, Hayat (meaning ‘life’ in Arabic), rejects her fate and fights against the patriarchal hegemony.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION  – GRIERSON AWARD

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD (Dir. Mads Brügger). This wild, stranger-than-fiction documentary depicts the most disturbing true-crime investigation to have been seen in recent years, in which Brügger attempts to solve the mysterious death in 1961 of second Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld.

COUP 53 (Dir. Taghi Amirani). The latest from award-winning documentarian Amirani is a decade-long investigation into the CIA/MI6-led coup of 1953 that removed Iran’s democratic Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. What begins as an interrogation of the mystery still surrounding the affair develops into a taut thriller, exposing rigorous secrecy and underlining the ongoing ramifications of this pivotal political episode.

CUNNINGHAM (Dir. Alla Kovgan). This eye-popping 3D portrait of great American choreographer Merce Cunningham celebrates the centenary of his birth. An exquisitely crafted and artistically ambitious documentary, the film explores his creative process in the period between 1942 and 1972 when he rose from struggling dancer to become one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century.

I AM (NOT) A MONSTER (Dir. Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian). Starting with the thoughts of political theorist Hannah Arendt, this thought-provoking and playful documentary sees Hayoun-Stépanian travel the world to ponder the means by which freedom of learning and innovative education can exist in contemporary times.

THE KINGMAKER (Dir. Lauren Greenfield). Imelda Marcos, matriarch of the Marcos dynasty, still hopes to see her maternal delusions validated and political power restored while Philippine activists fight for transparency and democracy. Her former peers, including the widows of governmental figures, tell the story of a woman scarred by an
emotional blow that transformed her into a bulletproof-bra-wearing megalomaniac, who now mythologises her mothering instincts.

MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE (Dir. Richard Lowenstein). Capturing INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence’s rise to super-stardom and subsequent tragic fall, MYSTIFY gives remarkable insight into his life and a truth he took to the grave. A tapestry of voices and home movies animate Hutchence’s personality, kicking tabloid speculation into oblivion and letting his story emerge with emotional and revelatory depth.

OVERSEAS (Dir. Sung-A Yoon). Each year, hundreds of thousands of Filipino women train to become domestic workers abroad. Yoon reveals the personal stories, dreams and heartaches of these trainees, exposing at the same time the economic and familial pressures pushing Filipino women to accept jobs abroad, which can sometimes resemble modern-day slavery.

A PLEASURE, COMRADES! (Dir. José Filipe Costa). The patriarchal power relations and sexual taboos of post-dictatorship Portugal are laid bare in this humorous and sex-positive docudrama with a feminist soul, as an older generation travels in time to bravely and joyfully re-enact  the testimonies of those who lived through it.

WHITE RIOT (Dir. Rubika Shah.) This vital documentary blends fresh interviews with archive footage to profile punky reggae protest movement Rock Against Racism, from the movement’s grassroots beginnings in 1976 through to 1978’s huge antifascist carnival in Victoria Park featuring X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse and The Clash, whose rockstar charisma and gale-force conviction took RAR’s message to the masses.

SHORT FILM AWARD

The Short Film Award recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. This year the festival is screening:
• IF YOU KNEW – Dir. Stroma Cairns

• WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE WATER AND THE MOON – Dir. Jian Luo

• WHITE GIRL – Dir. Nadia Latif

• FAULT LINE (GOSAL) – Dir. Soheil Amirsharifi • GUO4 – Dir. Peter Strickland

• IN VITRO – Dir. Larissa Sansour, Søren Lind

• ALGO-RHYTHM – Dir. Manu Luksch

• BETWEEN (ENTRE) – Dir. Ana Carolina Marinho, Bárbara Santos

• IN BETWEEN (NË MES) –Dir. Samir Karahoda

• CHILD – Dir. Talia Zucker

• WATERMELON JUICE (SUC DE SÍNDRIA) – Dir. Irene Moray

• QUEERING DI TEKNOLOJIK – Dir. Timothy Smith

Additional filmmaking talent expected to attend for films in competition include:   Thomas Clay, Charles Dance, Freddie Fox, Tanya Reynolds, Zorana Piggott, Rob Cannan, Alma Har’el, Isabel Sandoval, Jhett Tolentino, Jayro Bustamante, Oliver Hermanus, Alejandro Landes, Małgorzata Szumowska, Raffey Cassidy, Denise Gough, Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor, Ann Skelly, Orla Brady, David Collins, Rose Glass, Mati Diop, Shannon Murphy, Alex White, Rita Kalnejais, Andrew Commis, Nick Rowland, Bora Kim, Halina Reijn, Carice van Houten, Claire Oakley, Mariko Minoguchi, Julius Feldmeier, Shahad Ameen, Mads Brügger, Taghi Amirani, Alla Kovgan, Nelly Ben HayounStépanian, Lauren Greenfield, Richard Lowenstein, Sung-A Yoon, José Filipe Costa, Rubika Shah, Nadia Latif, Larissa Sansour, Søren Lind, Gunman Xuman, Mukul Patel, Ana Carolina Marinho, Bárbara Santos, Timothy Smith.

The Festival will announce its complete guest line-up for all sections in late September.

STRANDS 

The Festival programme is organised in sections to encourage discovery and to open up the Festival to new  audiences. The strands are: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Experimenta, Family and Treasures.

Here are some of the highlights to be found in these strands. Full details of all the films found in the strands, including late additions will be found on the Festival website.

LOVE 

Sweet, passionate, tough – Love is a complex and many-splendoured thing and this selection charts the highs and lows of many kinds of love from around the globe. The Love Gala, in association with Malta Tourism Authority, is the UK Premiere of Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson’s effortlessly charming buddy movie, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON.

Family relations unravel to wonderfully excruciating comic and dramatic effect in HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Cédric Kahn’s ensemble drama starring Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Macaigne. Director Shonali Bose (Margarita with a Straw, LFF 2014) returns to the Festival with THE SKY IS PINK, a compelling and emotionally devastating true story about a young couple (Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar) who will stop at nothing to save their sick daughter. Aki Omoshaybi’s earnest debut REAL explores the love between two people who work hard to keep their romance on track while struggling to manage personal hardship. Starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, ORDINARY LOVE is an intimate and sensitively-handled drama about a couple dealing with breast cancer; directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn capture both the extremity and the everydayness, in this warm and thought-provoking drama. British actor-turned-director Tom Cullen’s feature debut PINK WALL covers six years in six scenes: from first sparks to the dying embers of a love affair, it’s an intense and deeply affecting relationship study. Anthony Chen returns following his Sutherland win for Ilo Ilo (LFF 2013), with WET SEASON, a hugely satisfying Singapore-set portrait of a woman on a journey to rediscover herself. And one of the most buzzed-about films from Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, AND THEN WE DANCED is set to delight fans of Call Me by Your Name as well as lovers of traditional Georgian dance.

DEBATE

Representing films that amplify, scrutinize and surprise, Debate thrives on conversation, which is never more  engaging than when the world outside the cinema is reflected back at us. This year’s Debate Gala is Gavin Hood’s  politically charged fable, OFFICIAL SECRETS.

THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM, Daniel Gordon’s thought-provoking drama about the Australian Rules football star, raises crucial questions about casual racism, drawing upon Australia’s colonial past and its treatment of the Aboriginal population. Celebrated director Terrence Malick returns to the festival with A HIDDEN LIFE, a Second World War-set true story that calls for grace as it explores the importance of unsung resistance. Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Kevin Harrison Jr. lead the cast in Julius Onah’s LUCE, a gripping psychological thriller about subjectivity and codeswitching in modern America. THE REPORT by Scott Z Burns, starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm, is a politically urgent drama in which the American government take a hard look at itself. Acclaimed director Ciro Guerra follows Birds of Passage with WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS, an allegorical epic penned by JM Coetzee in an adaptation of his own literary masterpiece; starring Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson. Benedict Andrew’s stylish drama, SEBERG, sees Kristen Stewart shine as the idealistic yet fragile ‘It’ girl Jean Seberg, who finds herself a target of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI when she becomes romantically involved with a Black Panther and flaunts her disregard for America’s misogynistic and racist institutions. James Norton stars as Welsh journalist Gareth Jones in Agnieszka Holland’s MR JONES, which traces Jones’ 1930s visit to Soviet Ukraine where he uncovered the truth of Stalin’s statesponsored famine, a visit that reputedly inspired George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

LAUGH

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c73OjWe3aT0

From laugh-out-loud comedy to dry and understated, Laugh celebrates humour in all its forms. This year’s Laugh Gala, THE DUDE IN ME from director Hyo-jin Kang, is a sassy body-swap comedy from South Korea.

The Festival will also present Manele Labidi Labbé’s debut feature ARAB BLUES, a provocative culture clash comedy, starring Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Paterson) as a Parisian psychoanalyst attempting to set up a practice in a postArab Spring Tunis. In bittersweet comedy AXONE, director Nicholas Kharkongor tells the story of immigrants in Delhi who are attempting to organise a wedding party, but soon find everything going wrong! The vertiginous ups and downs in two men’s friendship spans several years and outrageous events in the award-winning US indie comedy THE CLIMB, from director Michael Angelo Covino. The Inbetweeners star Simon Bird’s directorial debut DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER is a funny, charming and wince-inducingly accurate adaptation of Joff Winterhart’s graphic novel about a single librarian trying to reconnect with her introverted, metalhead teenage son. Acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman returns with another deadpan take on life in exile with the typically assured and moving IT MUST BE HEAVEN. Billie Piper stars in her own directorial debut RARE BEASTS, a no-holds-barred anti-romcom about a modern woman’s struggles in work and love. The European Premiere of THE LOST OKOROSHI, directed by Abba Makama, follows a man who wakes up to discover he has undergone a transformation and takes a revelatory journey to see if ancestral tradition has a place in modern life.

DARE

In-your-face, up-front and arresting films in Dare take you out of your comfort zone. The Dare Gala is Mirrah Foulkes’ audacious and brilliant first feature, JUDY & PUNCH.

Winner of the top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival, contemporary Southern gothic BURNING CANE heralds 19-year-old director Phillip Youmans as a serious new talent. DOGS DON’T WEAR PANTS is J-P Valkeapää’s playful dark comedy about a dominatrix offering an emotionally-paralysed widower an unexpected chance for sexual and psychological release. Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau return with DON’T LOOK DOWN, an elegant and intimate drama about love and revenge: in a high-rise apartment, a woman and five men gather to share their experiences of a man they have all been involved with, to their cost. Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog is on thought-provoking form with his latest offering FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC, dramatising the work of a ‘rent-a-relative’ service in this Tokyo-set meditation on contemporary alienation. FIRE WILL COME, Olivier Laxe’s raw yet ravishing sensory experience telling the story of a pyromaniac who returns to his mother’s farm, is a visually jaw-dropping study of the Galician landscape, which the Festival is delighted to be screening in the BFI IMAX. Jérémy Clapin’s I LOST MY BODY, winner of the Grand Prize at the Cannes Critics’ Week, is a striking animation that follows a severed hand searching for its owner. Jessica Hausner’s first English-language feature, LITTLE JOE, is a pleasingly cool, witty and unsettling story of the pitfalls of placing too much trust in everyday science. ZOMBI CHILD is the latest provocation from Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama (LFF 2016)), splicing Haitian history and folklore with contemporary life at an elite girls’ boarding school in Paris.

THRILL

The Thrill strand, in association with EMPIRE, features nerve-shredders that’ll get your adrenalin pumping and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This year’s Thrill Gala is Kleber Mendonca̧ Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ spellbinding BACURAU.

The Festival will present the World Premiere of Wash Westmoreland’s EARTHQUAKE BIRD; Alicia Vikander is astonishing in this dark thriller set in 1989 Tokyo, in which she plays a murder suspect at the centre of a tumultuous love triangle. Bangkok-born, Thai-Irish writer-director Tom Waller’s THE CAVE is the first film to dramatise 2018’s astonishing rescue of the Wild Boars football team from Tham Luang cave. David Thewlis excels in GUEST OF HONOUR, another typically complex and mischievous offering from Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan, about a punctilious food inspector dedicated to uncovering the secrets of restaurants high and low. Yaron Zilberman’s INCITEMENT is a chilling and urgent account of twisted ideology and religious obsession that carries a universal message and tries to fathom what drove a young law student to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Lijo Jose Pellissery’s JALLIKATTU is a thrilling, nightmarish ride into the depths of human bloodlust, finding a rampaging buffalo hunted by a violent mob; slickly shot, paced and acted, this rollercoaster of a film compellingly explores the dark heart of human nature. A directionless call centre salesman gets more than he bargained for when he joins a local gym in MUSCLE, directed by Gerard Johnson; this testosterone-fuelled thriller is a meaty exploration (and critique) of amplified machismo, propelled by two extraordinary central performances from Cavan Clerkin and Craig Fairbrass. Nima Javidi nimbly reflects on notions of freedom and the fragile nature of authority in THE WARDEN, an ambitious follow-up to his awardwinning Melbourne. Javidi’s thrilling second feature is as astutely crafted as it is suave and seductive.

CULT

From the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror, in the Cult strand, the dark side is welcomed. This year’s Cult Gala is Robert Eggers’ masterful and terrifying maritime shocker, THE LIGHTHOUSE.

Quentin Dupieux presents DEERSKIN, which sees one man’s love for his designer jacket escalate to dangerous heights in what might just be the strangest serial killer film ever made. Johannes Nyholm returns to the festival with KOKO-DI KOKO-DA, the follow up to his extraordinary Sutherland-nominated film The Giant (LFF 2016): a phantasmagorical horror, pitch black comedy and searing psychodrama following a couple at breaking point who head to the great outdoors for a camping trip in the hopes of salvaging their fractured relationship – but unbeknownst to these unhappy campers, they are not alone in the forest. LITTLE MONSTERS by Abe Forsythe sees Lupita Nyong’o shine in a delirious zom-com that guarantees you’ll never listen to Taylor Swift in the same way again. Lorcan Finnegan presents VIVARIUM, in which Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg play a pair of first-time buyers who get more than they bargained for in this twisted fable about the horrors of suburban living. Adapted from Nathan Ballingrud’s novella ‘The Visible Filth’, Babak Anvari’s WOUNDS sees Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson drawn into a bizarre nightmare, as they attempt to return an abandoned cell phone to its rightful owner. Richard Stanley, visionary director of horror classics Hardware and Dust Devil, makes a triumphant return with COLOR OUT OF SPACE, a dazzling adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s otherworldly tale, starring Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson; in this thrilling combination of absorbing family drama and outré sci-fi madness, the Gardners are looking forward to a new, happier chapter in life – but their plans are abruptly interrupted when a meteor crash lands on their property.

JOURNEY

Whether it’s the journey or the destination, these films will transport you and shift your perspective. This year’s Journey Gala is THE TWO POPES, the thrillingly cinematic two-hander from Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener).

In director Hikari’s debut feature 37 SECONDS, a young woman with cerebral palsy strikes out for independence with the help of a sex worker; this sensational Japanese debut is a warm-hearted and clear-eyed exploration of the sexual experience of a person with disabilities. In THE CORDILLERA OF DREAMS, veteran documentarist Patricio Guzmán completes his trilogy about Chile’s troubled past, meditating on how the Andes shaped its sense of identity. After her 1930s-set Planetarium (LFF 2016), writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski returns to the present with the coming-of-age drama AN EASY GIRL, which investigates desire, the lure of the high life and the imagery of modern female sexuality, set in a sun-baked Cannes. Director Ga-eun Yoon’s rich and joyous THE HOUSE OF US proves her one of the world’s finest filmmakers at capturing contemporary childhood onscreen; performing the cinematic magic trick of immersing us in children’s perspective while allowing us to bring adult understanding to their experience. In Karim Aın̈ouz’s THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURIDICE GUSMAO, winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prize, a sumptuous tale of two sisters cruelly separated by family and fate makes for deeply moving drama. In MONSOON, Hong Khaou follows Lilting (BFI Flare 2014) with this gorgeous drama that evokes the disorientation of returning to an unrecognisable homeland; Londoner Kit (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians) travels to Vietnam to scatter his mother’s ashes and to connect with the place he departed from as a child, and finds that everything he knew has changed.

CREATE

The Create strand channels the electricity of the creative process, celebrating artistic expression in all its forms.  This year’s Create Gala, WESTERN STARS, sees music legend Bruce Springsteen present his 19th studio album in this spectacular visual treat for music fans the world over.

Faders on stun: Hollywood sound editor Midge Costin’s directorial debut, MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND, is an immersive, educational and hugely enjoyable documentary exploring the power of sound in cinema. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto’s SHOOTING THE MAFIA sketches a captivating portrait of defiant Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia, whose extraordinary work recorded the Mafia’s violent crimes. Stephen Kijak’s SID & JUDY documents Judy Garland’s life beyond the Yellow Brick Road, her post-MGM triumphs and tragedies vividly recalled in a revelatory documentary that utilises her impresario husband Sidney Luft’s memoirs. TALKING ABOUT TREES, a beautifully shot documentary by Suhaib Gasmelbari, follows four veteran members of the Sudanese Film Club as they aim to return cinema-going culture back to the country. Olivier Meyrou’s YVES SAINT LAURENT: THE LAST COLLECTIONS, withheld from release for nearly 20 years, is an exquisitely crafted and moving documentary observing the last few years in the company of style icon Yves Saint Laurent. Stanley Nelson’s MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL sees 20th century music’s trumpet-playing prince of darkness receive the candid documentary his controversial genius deserves. Starring Tim Roth and Clive Owen, François Girard’s THE SONG OF NAMES is a riveting musical odyssey and historical detective story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Mike Figgis’ enthralling documentary SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME follows the turbulent life and career of Ronnie Wood, legendary rock guitarist and long-time member of The Rolling Stones.

EXPERIMENTA

Experimenta features films and videos by artists that revolutionise and reshape our vision of cinema. The Experimenta Special Presentation is KRABI, 2562 by Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong.

Nina Danino’s I DIE OF SADNESS CRYING FOR YOU, a meditation on Spanish popular copla songs and their mighty female singers, is an evocative and passionate film essay. Brad Butler and Noorafshan Mirza present RUPTURES, set in Turkey, in which an MP, a former Police Commissioner, a right-wing assassin wanted by Interpol and a woman named Yenge are all involved in a car crash. Roz Mortimer’s THE DEATHLESS WOMAN is an elegiac account of the Nazi genocide of the Roma community expressed through the supernatural myth of the ‘deathless woman’. Louis Henderson and Olivier Marboeuf’s OUVERTURES reflects on the legacy of Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture, and follows a collective’s process of translating Édouard Glissant’s play Monsieur Toussaint from French  to Creole. Los Angeles-based artist Mariah Garnett presents TROUBLE, a personal account of an estranged father set against the Northern Ireland conflict; this heart-breaking story interwines interviews and investigations which reveal the traumatic effects of political upheavals on Belfast communities then and now, as well as added queer playfulness featuring trans actress Robyn Reihill. Jeffrey Perkins’ GEORGE: THE STORY OF GEORGE MACIUNAS AND FLUXUS, executive produced by Jonas Mekas, traces the history of the Fluxus movement through rare footage, recreation of happenings and interviews with key figures in this portrait of artist George Maciunas.

FAMILY

Showcasing films for the young, as well as the young at heart, this year’s Family strand is, as always, an international affair. The Family Gala is the UK premiere of Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman’s ABOMINABLE.

Bears and humans just don’t get on! In this adaptation of Dino Buzzati’s classic story THE BEARS’ FAMOUS INVASION, we find out why; this children’s classic is joyously depicted by Lorenzo Mattotti, who presents a compelling story that works on different levels depending on the viewer’s age. In Edmunds Jansons’ JACOB, MIMMI AND THE TALKING DOGS, a sassy group of talking dogs give plenty of attitude to Jacob and his cousin Mimmi, but they also help out when a local park is threatened. This section also includes a programme of animated shorts for younger audiences which bring together eclectic, exciting and colourful films from all around the globe. In Pawo Choyning Dorji’s live-action drama LUNANA: A YAK IN THE CLASSROOM a teacher in Bhutan, struggling for inspiration, travels to the most remote school in the world, where it takes being so far away to understand the importance of his work…and to appreciate the value of yak dung! Fresh from its success in China, we will be presenting the visually ravishing animation WHITE SNAKE at the

BFI IMAX. Directors Amp Wong and Ji Zhao tells the story of a girl with magical gifts who embodies the Chinese legend of the White Snake in a jaw-dropping landscape of demons, serpents and delight!

TREASURES

The Treasures strand brings recently revived and restored cinematic classics and discoveries from archives around the world to the Festival in London.

John Hurt is exceptional in David Lynch’s THE ELEPHANT MAN; this compassionate immersion into the vicious world experienced by ‘freaks’ in 19th century London has undergone an exclusive 4K restoration process supervised by Lynch. THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is an uncanny tale from the pen of Poe, directed by Roger Corman, shot by Nicolas Roeg, and starring Vincent Price – a match made in Heaven. Or Hell! Cameroonian feature MUNA MOTO is a welcome restoration of a classic social realist African masterpiece that champions the ideals of Third Cinema aesthetics. Budd Boetticher’s magisterial western, RIDE LONESOME, stars Randolph Scott as a haunted loner seeking vengeance in a bleak, elemental world full of dangerous strangers. SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY is an exuberant, joyous and deeply moving, critically acclaimed documentary that celebrates American gospel music, spotlighting giants of the business Willie Mae Ford Smith and Thomas A Dorsey. SWEET CHARITY sees Shirley MacLaine star as unlucky-in-love taxi dancer Charity Hope Valentine in Bob Fosse’s joyous adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Nina Menkes’ critically acclaimed underground classic, QUEEN OF DIAMONDS, is one of the most subversive and originally independent films of the 1990s, set in a hallucinatory Las Vegas landscape. Following the story of disaffected Firdaus, a struggling Blackjack dealer, set between glittering casino lights and a deteriorating desert oasis, this is a remarkable and provocative masterpiece of American independent filmmaking, ripe for critical evaluation.

LFF SCREEN TALKS

LFF SCREEN TALK: RIAN JOHNSON

We’re delighted to welcome Rian Johnson to the BFI London Film Festival, to talk about his career and the making of his fifth feature KNIVES OUT: a wickedly witty and stylish murder mystery, which the Maryland-born filmmaker has described as “an attempt to capture the twisty fun of an Agatha Christie whodunit.” A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Johnson debuted with 2005’s Brick, which ingeniously transposed the stylized tropes of Dashiell Hammett’s hardboiled detective fiction to a Californian high school setting. Made for just $500,000 and boasting a memorable lead performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this fresh take on neo-noir won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at Sundance Film Festival. Three years later, Johnson showed his comedic verve with globe-trotting conman caper The Brothers Bloom, before reuniting with Gordon-Levitt (starring alongside Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt) for 2012’s time-travelling sci-fi thriller Looper. A critical and commercial hit which further displayed his dazzling command of genre, it enjoyed success which led this most inventive of Hollywood auteurs to both write and direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi. A fearlessly bold continuation of the beloved space opera saga, the latter became the highest grossing film of 2017 and one of the most successful movies of all time.

LFF SCREEN TALK: KIM LONGINOTTO

We’re delighted to welcome back Kim Longinotto to the BFI London Film Festival, to talk about her storied career and her new documentary Shooting the Mafia, an eye-opening profile of Sicilian organised crime photographer Letizia Battaglia. Longinotto has been blazing a trail for British nonfiction filmmaking for more than four decades. She debuted at LFF with 1976’s Pride of Place, an unvarnished look at her old boarding school which prompted Longinotto’s former headmistress to brand the young filmmaker ‘a class traitor’ (the school closed the following year). Frequently focusing on marginalized people and extraordinary women from around the world fighting oppression, her filmography includes such ground-breaking factual pieces as Shinjuku Boys (1995), which spotlighted Tokyo’s transgender club scene, and Divorce Iranian Style (1998), an arresting chronicle of Iran’s patriarchal court system. She won the 2008 World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival for the South Africa carers portrait Rough Aunties, and was the recipient of Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Inspiration Award in 2010. Longinotto explored 20th-century cinema’s depictions of sex and desire with 2014’s archival tapestry Love Is All, while continuing her avowedly feminist, globe-spanning work with the following year’s Dreamcatcher, about a Chicago charity which helps women leave the sex industry.

LFF SCREEN TALK: LUKAS MOODYSSON

We’re delighted to welcome back writer-director Lukas Moodysson to the BFI London Film Festival, to talk about his career and the making of his first TV series Gösta. Set in rustic Småland, this loving satire about a kindly child psychologist (played by rising Midsommar star Vilhelm Blomgren) has been described by its creator as ‘a mix of comedy and Dostoevsky – as funny as possible and as serious as possible.’ Raised in provincial Sweden, Moodysson made an immediate mark on global cinema with 1998’s Show Me Love: a hugely acclaimed coming-of-age drama depicting the awkward romance between two teenage girls in a boring small town. His seemingly effortless blend of empathy and insight continued two years later with Together, a humorous portrait of an idealistic commune in 1970s Stockholm. The filmmaker took a darker turn with third feature Lilya 4-ever (2002), a drawn-from-real-life tale of sexual slavery, and the experimental porn exploration A Hole in My Heart (2004). He made his English-language debut with 2009’s Mammoth, starring Michelle Williams and Gael García Bernal, followed by a triumphant return to Swedish storytelling with 2013’s We Are the Best!, an exuberant adaptation of his wife Coco’s girl-punk graphic novel.

INDUSTRY & EDUCATION

This year’s industry events programme will accent the Festival’s focus on the issues and debate that are urgent for industry and filmmakers, maximise opportunities for Industry delegates to access international delegates and filmmakers attending the Festival, augmenting the full benefits package available for Industry delegates.

The industry programme, supported by the Mayor of London, via Film London, includes access to the LFF CONNECTS strand which celebrates artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries; the talent development programme BFI NETWORK@LFF; and a host of new format discussions, panels and networking events.

This year’s Festival marks the fourth year of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI. At £50,000, the Bursary is the most significant of its kind in the UK, supporting exceptional new filmmaking talent.  The Bursary is eligible for emerging writers, directors and writer/directors resident in the UK, and premiering their first or second feature in the Festival. Last year’s winner was Richard Billingham (Ray & Liz) with Harry Wootliff (writer/director, Only You) and Nicole Taylor (writer, Wild Rose) shortlisted nominees. Previous recipients of the Bursary were writer/directors, Daniel Kokotajlo (Apostasy) in 2017 and Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling) in 2016.

The Festival will host Press and Industry screenings at Vue West End, provide a Digital Viewing Library, delegate hubs, discounts at partner venues and at LFF Connects and Screen Talks, and numerous networking opportunities with delegates and filmmakers.

Details of the full industry programme will be announced in September. Industry delegate accreditation is open now and closes on Wednesday 11 September. Visit www.bfi.org.uk/lff/professional-delegates for further details

BFI LFF Education returns to this year’s Festival with a new offer for young people of all ages keen to engage with the wealth of film on offer throughout the BFI LFF programme. BFI LFF Education sets its sights to increase primary and secondary students’ access to the Festival and attending BFI LFF special guests, in partnership with Into Film. Additionally the Festival host a day dedicated to young aspiring filmmakers aged 16-25, offering transformational opportunities and exclusive access to filmmaking talent. The BFI LFF Critics Mentorship Programme returns for a second time, following a successful inaugural year in 2018. 16-25 year olds can also apply for Future Film Accreditation and take advantage of our 25 and Under £5 rush ticket offers.

The BFI London Film Festival Education programme is supported by funding contributors LaCie and The Sir John Cass’s Foundation and event delivery partners Into Film Festival

For further information visit bfi.org.uk/lffeducation url

BFI PLAYER

The BFI London Film Festival experience can be enjoyed UK-wide on BFI Player, the BFI’s VOD service, featuring Festival collections showcasing films from previous years. BFI London Film Festival content will be a key attraction in the range of services on BFI Player – at player.bfi.org.uk/

SPONSORS AND FUNDERS

We are delighted to welcome back American Express, our Principal Partner and Preferred Payment Partner. This is a very special year as we celebrate ten years of this extraordinary partnership.

We are thrilled to see the return of American Airlines as Main Sponsor and Official Airline. We’re delighted to have IWC Schaffhausen return as the Festival’s Official Time Partner and Headline Partner of our fundraising Gala LUMINOUS, where we will announce this year’s winner of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI.

We give heartfelt thanks to The May Fair Hotel, who return as the Festival’s Official Hotel Partner.

We extend a very warm Festival welcome to our returning partners: LaCie who support our Future Film Day for young filmmakers and The Malta Tourism Authority who are partnering on our Love Gala and Love Strand.

We are delighted to welcome new sponsors who join us this year: Heart of London Business Alliance, Facebook and Nyetimber – our official sparkling wine partner.

The BFI London Film Festival is made possible thanks to support from DCMS and The National Lottery and many other cultural institutions and organisations. We are also delighted to be supported directly by the Mayor of London through Film London as a funding contributor.

The remastering and new score of the BFI Archive Gala film is supported by the Eric Anker-Petersen Charity. With additional support from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and the John S Cohen Foundation. Films by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Prestwich and Gaumont all restored in 2018 by the BFI National Archive in collaboration with EYE Filmmuseum and Haghefilm.

A huge thank you goes to the Festival’s generous in-kind Sponsors: returning photography sponsor Getty Images and cinema advertising partner Digital Cinema Media. Additionally, we would like to welcome back DDA and thank Audemus Spirits: Pink Pepper Gin, CPC London, Dalston’s Soda, Viña Pomal, Global, Harkness Screens, Impact Marketing, Picture Production Company and Newman Displays for their continued support.

Cinema partners returning this year are Ciné Lumière, Curzon, Empire, ICA, ODEON Luxe Leicester Square, ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Prince Charles Cinema and Vue.

We are delighted to welcome back returning Media Partners Evening Standard, Empire, Time Out, Sight & Sound, Screen International, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Little White Lies as well as valued Broadcast Partner BBC Radio London for continuing to provide invaluable media support.

The Festival would also like to give a huge thanks to returning sponsor Christie Digital.

Finally, the Festival would like to thank the many embassies and cultural institutes who support the Festival by helping to bring in filmmakers to present their work.

2018 BFI London Film Festival: programming slate announced

August 30, 2018

BFI London Film Festival 2018

The following is a press release from the BFI London Film Festival:

The 62nd BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® today announces its full programme, featuring a diverse selection of 225 feature films from both established and emerging talent. This 12 day celebration of cinema illustrates the richness of international filmmaking, with films to delight and entertain audiences, and also films that probe and interrogate issues of significance.

The Festival is the UK’s leading and most prestigious film festival, representing one of the first opportunities for audiences – both the UK public and film industry professionals – to see the very best new films from around the globe, alongside an events programme with some of the world’s most inspiring creative talents. This year, the Festival will host 21 World Premieres, 9 International Premieres and 29 European Premieres and will welcome a stellar line up of cast and crew for many of the films.

The 225 feature programmes screening at the Festival include: 46 documentaries, 4 animations, 18 archive restorations and 7 artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 160 short films, and 77 countries are represented across short film and features. A Headline Gala will be presented every night at Cineworld Leicester Square. Films in Official Competition are this year presented at Vue Leicester Square, with Strand Galas presented at the stunning 800-seat Embankment Garden Cinema, a bespoke temporary venue which was first built for the Festival in 2016, with audiences and filmmakers alike praising its quality of cinema experience. Constructed to the highest technical specifications with raked seating, Christie Digital 4k projection and Dolby® 7.1 surround sound, the venue is this year’s biggest, bringing the Festival to even more people and connecting the screenings in the West End with the BFI’s home cinemateque at BFI Southbank. The Festival will celebrate the highest creative achievements of British and international filmmakers in its Competitive sections, applauding extraordinary storytelling and inventive filmmaking across all the categories.

The winners in each competition will be selected by hand-picked juries, and for the first time this year, the winners will be revealed in front of a public audience on the evening of Saturday, October 20. Each winning film will be presented as a surprise screening in each category at Vue Leicester Square, preceded on stage by the presentation of the Festival’s official award, the bronze Star of London, in the presence of Artistic Director Tricia Tuttle, the President of the jury and the winning filmmaker. This places audiences at the very the heart of the awards celebration and encourages them to experiment and see the very best new films, without knowing what they are in advance. And we are delighted this year to announce our Awards are supported by Persol.

Alongside the Galas, Special Presentations and films in Competition, the Festival will show a thrilling range of new world cinema in sections Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Experimenta, Family and Create – which provide pathways for audiences to navigate the extensive programme. Audiences will once again have the opportunity to hear some of the world’s creative leaders through the Festival’s acclaimed talks’ series LFF Connects, which features artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries, and Screen Talks, a series of in-depth interviews with leaders in contemporary cinema.

Participants confirmed so far include Keira Knightley, Alfonso Cuarón, David Hare, Lee Chang-dong and Simon Amstell, with more being confirmed nearer the Festival. As one of the few film festivals in the world to be staged in a production capital, the Festival takes its place as a jewel in the crown of London’s cultural Autumn calendar, channelling the excellence of one of the world’s most vibrant cultural cities and highlighting the enormous wealth of talent working in film today, both behind and in front of the camera. Alongside the Industry programme and Awards, the Festival proudly acts as a launch pad for new as well as established voices, and supports filmmakers throughout their career, aiming to interrogate how film and filmmaking reflects – and reflects on – our society.

The Festival will partner with a host of London cinemas, with its films playing on 18 screens at 13 venues across the capital; BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Ciné Lumière, Cineworld Leicester Square, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Embankment Garden Cinema, the ICA, Picturehouse Central, Prince Charles Cinema, Rich Mix, Vue Leicester Square and for the first time, Odeon Tottenham Court Road. Several key events will also be cinecast to cinema venues around the UK, including the world premiere of Peter Jackson’s THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD, which will be simultaneously screened, in 2D and 3D to cinemas and special venues across the UK (see Special Presentations) and for the first time ever, an LFF premiere outside London – the LFF Special Presentation of Mike Leigh’s PETERLOO will take place at HOME, Manchester.

Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive, BFI said “Opening doors for everyone is at the heart of the BFI’s purpose and the BFI London Film Festival is the ultimate platform for filmmakers, established and new, to showcase their latest work to audiences in a city renowned for welcoming cosmopolitan creativity.
The Festival’s great programme always challenges our global perspective with fresh ideas and viewpoints, something so valuable at this extraordinary moment when we, as a nation are so engaged in a passionate debate about the UK’s future.”

Tricia Tuttle, Festival Artistic Director said “We have the great pleasure and privilege at the LFF to be both a public Festival, bringing the best global cinema to the UK’s diverse and adventurous audiences, but also playing a key role in supporting producers, sales agents and distributors to launch their films. It’s our goal that LFF offers films to satisfy any cinema goer. We want to offer 12 days of pleasure – whether it’s being challenged to think about the world, or indeed the movies in a different way, or just strapping yourself in for the ride.”

OPENING & CLOSING NIGHT GALAS

As previously announced, the Festival opens with the European Premiere of Academy Award®- winner Steve Mc Queen’s WIDOWS, on Wednesday 10 October. Adapted from the ground-breaking UK television classic Widows by Lynda La Plante, WIDOWS is scintillatingly rich storytelling from a magnificent filmmaker, probing issues around race, class and gender, whilst delivering immense style and crackingly sharp thrills. This deeply satisfying, female-fuelled heist thriller boasts an all-star cast which includes Oscar®-winner Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Lukas Haas and Brian Tyree Henry. The Festival closes with the World Premiere of STAN & OLLIE on Sunday 21 October. Starring delightfully bang-ontarget performances from Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as the legendary movie comedy duo, STAN & OLLIE is a truly funny and touching film about a tender life-long friendship of Hollywood’s greatest comedy double act, Laurel and Hardy. The film also stars Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda in hilarious and touching turns as wives Lucille and Ida, as well as Danny Huston and Rufus Jones. Simultaneous preview screenings of STAN & OLLIE will bring all of the excitement from the Leicester Square premiere to cinemas across the UK.

GALAS

HEADLINE GALAS

The American Express Gala sees the return of Academy Award®-nominee Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of A Sacred Deer LFF 2015 and LFF 2017) to the Festival with his third English-language film in four years; wickedly funny comedy THE FAVOURITE receives its UK Premiere and is gleeful and supremely intelligent filmmaking, powered by a trio of riotous performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, along with a terrific supporting cast, including Nicholas Hoult and Mark Gatiss.

The Coen Brothers return to the Festival for the third time with the UK Premiere of THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, which is this year’s American Airlines Gala. A wildly idiosyncratic, undeniably hilarious and often touchingly melancholic study of the American West, this anthology of a half-dozen Western tales is a six-shooting delight from the bottomless well that is the Coens’ imagination. Tim Blake Nelson will play the titular lead role, while Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson and Tom Waits also star.

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Headline Gala BEAUTIFUL BOY receives its UK Premiere at the Festival and chronicles the heart-breaking, harrowing and ultimately inspiring experience of survival, relapse and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. Making his English-language debut, Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown) directs with soulful restraint. Academy Award®-winner Steve Carell and Academy Award®-nominee Timothée Chalamet give blistering, visceral performances in this intelligent, tough and inspiring film.

Directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), Headline Gala CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? is the sharp, scintillating true crime story of best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel who turns her art form into a get-rich-quick deception. Melissa McCarthy is a revelation as Israel, giving a powerhouse performance as a ‘difficult woman’ whom she imbues with poignancy and a great line in alcohol-fueled barbs.

Starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West, the BFI Patrons’ Gala, COLETTE, is Wash Westmoreland’s (Still Alice) timely, exhilarating, gender-challenging Belle Époque-era biopic of literary couple Colette and Willy, whose relationship rewrote social and gender rules. In her extraordinary fight to reclaim her voice and gain recognition at the dawn of the modern age, Knightley is sensational as Colette, blooming from provincial maiden to a radical ruledefying feminist and iconoclast.

The May Fair Hotel Gala is the European Premiere of THE FRONT RUNNER, Jason Reitman’s (Tully, Labor Day LFF 2013) cracking, top-class political drama chronicling the rise of American Senator Gary Hart, 1988’s Democratic presidential candidate, and his subsequent fall from grace when he’s caught in a scandalous extramarital affair. An exceptional ensemble cast is led by Academy Award®-nominated Hugh Jackman as Hart, with Vera Farmiga, Kaitlyn Dever, Sara Paxton, Molly Ephraim, and Oscar®-winner J. K. Simmons.

Director Dan Fogelman’s (Crazy, Stupid, Love, This is Us) heart-wrenching, romantic drama, LIFE ITSELF, is the Royal Bank of Canada Gala. The complexities of life are embraced in this sweeping, multi-layered love story, led by Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde, LIFE ITSELF brings together an all-star ensemble cast in an ambitious meditation on the human condition and fundamental truths that connect us all.

Returning to the Festival with the European Premiere of his visceral, action-packed drama, Headline Gala, OUTLAW KING, is director David Mackenzie’s (Hell or High Water, Starred Up LFF 2013) gutsy, historical drama bringing underdog Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) thrillingly to life as Scotland battles for its soul against England. Set amid the jaw-dropping beauty of the Scottish landscape, this hugely entertaining epic is supported by a cracking ensemble cast, including Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Florence Pugh.

A PRIVATE WAR features as the Mayor of London’s Gala. Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy®-Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, City of Ghosts) makes a striking dramatic debut with this pulse-racing biopic of The Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike). A devastating portrait of a complex, brilliant woman, Rosamund Pike delivers a bewitching performance, fiercely inhabiting Colvin, who sacrificed her own safety and happiness to bear witness to the very human cost of armed conflict. Pike is brilliantly supported by costars Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci and Tom Hollander. Luca Guadagnino follows up his triumphant Call Me By Your Name (LFF 2017) with Headline Gala SUSPIRIA, paying homage to Dario Argento’s horror classic with this delicious feminist update.

A complex, supernatural horror exploring notions of corruption, innocence and female power, SUSPIRIA stars Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, both of whom are incandescent at the heart of a fabulous, almost exclusively female cast.

FESTIVAL AND STRAND GALAS

LFF alumni director Tom Harper (War Book, LFF 2014) makes a cracking return with this year’s Festival Gala, WILD ROSE, a delightful and infectiously joyous film written by rising screenwriting star Nicole Taylor which finds Glaswegian Rose-Lynn balancing her dreams of being a country music star with the responsibilities of motherhood. Starring a magnificent Julie Walters, along with a dazzling breakout performance from the irrepressible Jessie Buckley.

The Salem witch trials are given a digital overhaul in ferocious femme exploitationer, ASSASSINATION NATION, which is this year’s Cult Gala directed by Sam Levinson. Starring Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Bill Skarsgård. Ali Abbasi’s BORDER features as the Dare Gala. Prepare for a love story like no other in this audacious Scandinavian fantasy, about a customs officer who develops a strange attraction to the suspect she’s investigating. An adaptation, based on a novel by the writer of Let the Right One In.

Lee Chang-dong’s critically acclaimed BURNING features as this year’s Thrill Gala in association with Sight & Sound. Having wowed Cannes, this spellbinding, richly complex thriller explores obsession, class conflict and suppressed male rage and is a masterfully crafted adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story Barn Burning.

Acclaimed Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki’s CAPERNAUM, winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival 2018, opens as this year’s Debate Gala, a heart-wrenching depiction of life in the shadows. A politically-charged fable, featuring mostly non-professional actors, about a child who launches a lawsuit against his parents. THE GREAT VICTORIAN MOVING PICTURE SHOW features as the Archive Gala, projecting Britain’s earliest films at their grandest scale. At only a minute or so in duration, these films range in date from 1897-1901, serving up an eclectic array of subjects, from gorgeous panoramic vistas to dizzying ‘phantom rides’, music hall turns to the pomp of royal pageantry, and the bustle of the Victorian street to dramatic dispatches from the Boer War.

Academy Award®-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, LFF 2016) returns to the Festival with IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, an audacious, distinctive and assured adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, which features as this year’s Love Gala, in association with Time Out. A tender and captivating story, touching upon love, injustice and racism in America.

The Laugh Gala in association with Empire Magazine sees Terry Gilliam return to the Festival (Jabberwocky LFF 2017) with the UK Premiere of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE. Two decades in the making, the hotly anticipated adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel sees Toby, a disillusioned advertising executive, pulled into a world of timejumping fantasy when a Spanish cobbler believes him to be Sancho Panza. The film stars Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce and Stellan Skarsgård.

This year’s Family Gala sees LFF favourite Mamoru Hosoda (The Boy and The Beast, Wolf Children, LFF 2015 and LFF 2012) return to the Festival with MIRAI, a rapturous and fantastical take on childhood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp_i7cnOgbQ

A sumptuous black-and-white ode to the women who shaped his early life, this year’s Journey Gala is ROMA, Alfonso Cuarón’s (Gravity, LFF 2013) chronicle of a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s. The film stars Yalita Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, and Diego Cortina Autrey.

THE WHITE CROW, directed by Ralph Fiennes, features as the Create Gala. Dance perfection meets political defection in this intoxicating account of the young life of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West. The film stars Oleg Ivenko and Louis Hoffman.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

Ten Special Presentations shine the spotlight on new work from major directors.

Having made an impact at LFF 2011 with her gritty low-budget debut Junkhearts, LFF Alumni Tinge Krishnan returns to the Festival with her ambitious second feature BEEN SO LONG, a brilliantly refreshing contemporary musical set on the streets of Camden Town.

Populist, provocative and piercingly captivating, FAHRENHEIT 11/9 finds one of North American culture’s most outspoken filmmakers, Michael Moore, turning his sights on one of the most controversial figures of our time: Donald Trump. With his trademark wit, Moore paints a fiery, startling portrait of life in Trump’s America.

THE HATE U GIVE, George Tillman Jr’s expansive and electrifying coming-of age social drama about finding your voice and standing up for what is right, offers a pertinent and powerful look at the contemporary black experience in America.

Presenting the first two episodes of sharp, sexy and wickedly intelligent spy thriller, THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL is given an impactful theatrical treatment as Park Chan-wook’s stylistic mastery meets John le Carré’s espionage twists in this action packed new series from the makers of 2016’s global hit The Night Manager.

Carol Morley returns to LFF (The Falling LFF 2014, Dreams of a Life LFF 2011) with OUT OF BLUE, a wonderfully stylised, offbeat noir thriller about a murder investigation and multiple realities. Adapted from Martin Amis’ Night Train, Morley has created a moody detective story with an almost Lynchian dry wit supported by a splendid ensemble cast.

Covering one of the most notorious episodes in British history, director Mike Leigh’s highly anticipated follow-up to Mr Turner (LFF 2014), PETERLOO, is a major work of cinema, featuring a superb ensemble cast in an epic portrayal of the events surrounding Manchester’s infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre. In this rousing, working class tale, director Mike Leigh is working at the pinnacle of his powers. The screening in Manchester represents the first time the BFI London Film Festival has premiered a film outside of the capital, offering audiences in Manchester and nationwide the opportunity to preview a major release with Manchester’s history at its forefront.

Another Special Presentation marks the centenary of the First World War with the World Premiere of director Peter Jackson’s passion project THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD. Created exclusively with original, archive footage from the Imperial War Museum’s film archive and audio from BBC archives, Peter Jackson and his team, who have painstakingly hand-colourised each frame of the film, bring the First World War to life in a way never seen before. The film will be presented by Peter Jackson and simultaneously screened, in 2D and 3D to cinemas and special venues across the UK.

Guaranteed to astonish and impress, the Documentary Special Presentation is Viktor Kossakovsky’s AQUARELA, a stunning, sensory cinematic experience taking audiences on a mesmerising journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water.

Celebrating a centenary of the women’s vote, the Experimenta Special Presentation is the richly imaginative, satirical feminist sci-fi MAKE ME UP, acclaimed Scottish artist Rachel Maclean’s daring follow-up to her Venice Biennale piece Spite Your Face (LFF 2017). And finally the BFI Flare Special Presentation returns with the trailblazing RAFIKI, Wanuri Kahiu’s tender yet defiant tale of blossoming love between two teenage girls.

Banned in its home country of Kenya, RAFIKI is a timely and necessary film and a testament to Kahiu’s unabashed courage, reminding us that there are still pressing LGBTQ+ stories to be told.

Key filmmaking talent due to attend the Festival’s Gala and Special Presentation screenings include: Steve McQueen, Michelle Rodriguez, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Jon S. Baird, Jeff Pope, Faye Ward, Yorgos Lanthimos, Emma Stone, Joe Alwyn, Nicholas Hoult, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Coleman, James Smith, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Bill Heck, Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Felix van Groeningen, Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Anne Carey, Amy Nauiokas, Wash Westmoreland, Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Denise Gough, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley, Hugh Jackman, Jason Reitman, Dan Fogelman, Olivia Cooke, David Mackenzie, Matthew Heineman, Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci, Luca Guadagnino, Ali Abbasi, Lee Chang-Dong, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuarón, Ralph Fiennes, George MacKay, George Tillman Jr, Amandla Stenberg, Angie Thomas, Carol Morley, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Jackson, Viktor Kossakovsky, Rachel Maclean, Wanuri Kahiu.

AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS

The BFI London Film Festival awards celebrate the highest creative achievements of British and international filmmakers showcased in our Competitive sections, applauding extraordinary storytelling and inventive filmmaking across all the categories. The winners in each competition are selected by festival juries and this year will be announced at a unique new event celebrating public access to the winning films on Saturday 20 October. The Jury for each category will be announced ahead of the opening of the Festival.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

As previously announced, the Official Competition recognises inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, and includes the following shortlisted titles:

BIRDS OF PASSAGE, Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s sprawling exploration of family conflict and tribal warfare

DESTROYER, Karyn Kusama’s brooding thriller about a jaded police detective haunted by her past;

HAPPY NEW YEAR, COLIN BURSTEAD., Ben Wheatley’s poignantly funny and razor-sharp observation of English family dysfunction

HAPPY AS LAZZARO, Alice Rohrwacher’s delightful genre-bending rumination on the fate of innocence; IN FABRIC, Peter Strickland’s haunting ghost story starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Gwendoline Christie, following the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences

JOY, Sudabeh Mortezai’s affecting drama that tackles the vicious cycle of sex trafficking in modern Europe; THE OLD MAN &THE GUN, a brilliantly entertaining crime caper directed by David Lowery, starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck

SHADOW, Zhang Yimou’s stylish martial arts thriller set during China’s Three Kingdom’s era (AD 220-280); SUNSET, Academy Award®-winner László Nemes’ fugue-like meditation on the end of an empire

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG, Dominga Sotomayor’s woozily gorgeous evocation of life on the fringe of society in Chile, after Pinochet’s fall

FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION – SUTHERLAND AWARD

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

THE CHAMBERMAID, (dir. Lila Avilés). This hopeful drama sees Eve, a young chambermaid at a luxurious Mexico City hotel, confront the monotony of long workdays with quiet examinations of forgotten belongings and budding friendships that nourish her newfound and determined dream for a better life.

THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW is the moving debut feature of Syrian director Soudade Kaadan. Sana is living with her eight year old son whilst her husband works in Saudi Arabia. A trip to Damascus sees Sana brutally confronted to the devastating effects of war, and the fate of her countrypeople.

DEAD PIGS, Cathy Yan’s freewheeling, multicultural comedy was a Special Jury Prize-winner at Sundance Film 2018 and sees a bumbling pig farmer, a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an expat architect and a disenchanted rich girl converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly-modernizing Shanghai.

GIRL is Lukas Dhont’s award-winning feature debut, and bestowed with the coveted Queer Palm and Golden Camera Awards at the Cannes Film Festival this year. A richly empathetic and beautifully realised coming-of-age story about a transgender aspiring ballet dancer. HOLIDAY, Isabella Eklöf’s arresting debut is a disturbing tale of power, exploitation and complicity in this modern, dark gangster tale set in the beautiful port city of Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera.

JOURNEY TO A MOTHER’S ROOM is Celia Rico Clavellino’s debut feature. An intimate and tender drama, exploring the sense of loss experienced by a mother and daughter when the daughter prepares to leave home for the first time. ONLY YOU is the debut feature from British filmmaker Harry Wootliff. Josh O’Connor and Laia Costa play a couple who, after a one-night stand, fall madly in love only to then find daily life putting up barriers to their happiness.

RAY & LIZ is Turner-prize nominated and Deutsche Börse Prize-winning artist Richard Billingham’s first feature film. Recreating visceral family memories and desperate living in Thatcher’s Britain, this is a universal story of everyday conflicts, loneliness, love and loss.

SONI, Ivan Ayr’s class-conscious debut, depicts a fresh slice of feminist policing, Indian style in this drama exploring the solidarity between a fiery female officer and her superior.

WILDLIFE, the absorbing directorial debut from Paul Dano based on Richard Ford’s titular novel, sees Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal play a couple on the rocks following a move to suburban Montana, in this elegant 1950s-set, emotionally powerful melodrama;

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION – GRIERSON AWARD

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

 

BISBEE ‘17, the arresting documentary from Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine, LFF 2016), blends fiction and reality with startling effect. An old mining town on the Arizona-Mexico border finally reckons with its darkest day: the deportation of 1200 immigrant miners exactly 100 years ago. Locals collaborate to stage recreations of their controversial past.

DREAM AWAY, sees co-directors Marouan Omara and Johanna Domke document the surreal world of Sharm El Sheikh, three years after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 as a group of hotel staff reflect on their life, hopes and dreams in a deserted Egyptian holiday resort.

EVELYN, Academy Award®-nominated director Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga) turns the camera on his own family as they attempt to cope with a devastating loss. On a walking odyssey across the United Kingdom, three siblings must confront a past they’ve been unable to talk about, whilst simultaneously repairing the fractures in their own relationships.

JOHN MCENROE: IN THE REALM OF PERFECTION , narrated by Mathieu Amalric and directed by Julien Farau (Un Regard Neuf sur Olympia 52), this entertaining and innovative archive documentary captures volatile tennis star John McEnroe at the height of his success, during the final of the 1984 French Open with Ivan Lendl.

THE PLAN THAT CAME FROM THE BOTTOM UP, from director Steve Sprung tells the inspiring story of the Lucas Plan, a plan to avoid job losses concocted by the ambitiously pioneering factory workers, that became the starting point for an incisive account of our current and future economic climate – including the wind turbine, hybrid car, heat pump and energy efficient housing.

PUTIN’S WITNESSES, from award-winning exiled Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky (Let Us Have Power) uses first-hand footage he shot of Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin to deliver a damning indictment of the early stages of Putin’s presidency.

THE RAFT, (dir. Marcus Lindeen) tells the hidden story behind what has been described as ‘one of the strangest group experiments of all time’ on the salaciously dubbed ‘Sex Raft’ through extraordinary archive material and a reunion of the surviving members of the expedition

THEATRE OF WAR is Lola Arias’ innovative documentary revealing the personal stories of both British and Argentinean veterans whose lives were deeply affected by Falklands War, timed to mark the 35th anniversary

WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE? is award-winning filmmaker Robert Minervini’s thoughtprovoking and all-too-relevant documentary, following a Louisiana community during the summer of 2017 during the aftermath of a police shooting that sent shockwaves throughout the country.

YOUNG AND ALIVE by Matthieu Bareyre, documents a young community in Paris whose lives were changed irrevocably by the terror attacks of 2015.. Led by new faces and unheard groups with pioneering values and ideals they open a new dialogue, challenge the state and get ready for a new kind of revolution.

SHORT FILM AWARD

The Short Film Award recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. This year the festival is screening:

ANOTHER DECADE, dir. Morgan Quaintaince DE NATURA, dir. Lucile Hadžihalilovic

THE FIELD (LE CHAMP DE MAIS) dir. Sandhya Suri HELLO, RAIN, dir. C J ‘Fiery’ Obassi

LASTING MARKS, DIR Charlie Lyne LEASH, dir. Harry Lighton MONELLE, dir. Diego Marcon

SALAM, DIR. Claire Fowler

SOLAR WALK, dir Réka Bucsi

VESLEMØY’S SONG, DIR. Sofia Bohdanowicz

Additional filmmaking talent attending for films in competition include: Ciro Guerra, Alice Rohrwacher, Ben Wheatley, Peter Strickland, Sudabeh Mortezai, David Lowery, Zhao Xiaoding, László Nemes, Dominga Sotomayor, Lila Avilés, Isabella Eklöf, Celia Rico Clavellin, Harry Wootliff, Richard Billingham, Ivan Ayr, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Doug Tirola, Marouan Omara, Orlando von Einsiedel, Julien Faraut, Steve Sprung, Vitaliy Mansky, Marcus Lindeen, Lola Arias, Matthieu Bareyre. The Festival will announce its complete guest line-up for all sections in early October.

STRANDS

The Festival programme is organised in sections to encourage discovery and to open up the Festival to new audiences. The strands are: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Family, Treasures and Experimenta. Here are some of the highlights to be found in these strands. LOVE Sweet, passionate, tough – Love is a complex and many-splendoured thing and this selection charts the highs and lows of many kinds of love from around the globe.

The Love Gala, in association with Time Out, is the European Premiere of Barry Jenkins’ distinctive drama, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK.

For anyone who has ever loved a boyband, Jessica Leski’s funny, engaging documentary, I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY, is a glitter-covered, cross-generational love letter to boybands and the girls who love them, that will have you bopping along.

Starring Golden Globe-winner Matt Bomer, John Butler’s PAPI CHULO is a tender yet sharp cross-cultural comedy drama about love and loneliness, in which a heartbroken Los Angeles weatherman tries to fill the void left by his Latino ex-boyfriend by ‘hiring’ a middle-aged migrant worker to be his friend.

Ali Jaberansari’s TEHRAN: CITY OF LOVE follows three lonely characters looking for romance and connection in the city of Tehran; the film’s pitch-perfect deadpan humour helps paint a picture of the city as you’ve never seen it before.

A critical and commercial success in the US, Morgan Neville’s WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? is a heartfelt and entrancing documentary focusing on Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s TV presenter who redefined entertainment for the young.

Toni Erdmann star Sandra Hüller returns to the screen for Thomas Stuber’s poetic workplace romance IN THE AISLES, set in the seemingly banal universe of a wholesale supermarket; sometimes you just have to look differently at the everyday to discover something magical in its routine.

Nijla Mumin’s JINN, telling the story of a black LA teenager torn between traditional Islam and notoriety for becoming the popular #HalalHottie, gives a powerful take on identity and sexuality, exploring a seldom-shown sector of youth.

Writer-director Shin Dong-seok delivers a devastating debut with LAST CHILD, an emotionally wrenching family drama that heralds a serious new voice in Korean cinema.

DEBATE

Representing films that amplify, scrutinize, argue and surprise, Debate thrives on conversation, which is never more engaging than when the world outside the cinema is reflected back at us.

This year’s Debate Gala is Nadine Labaki’s politically-charged fable, CAPERNAUM. AN IMPOSSIBLE LOVE, Catherine Corsini’s powerful moving drama, explores the unconditional love between a mother and daughter in 1950’s France and how the torments of love are carried on from generation to generation.

Radu Jude, celebrated director of Aferim!, Scarred Hearts and The Dead Nation, returns with I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS, another controversial and illuminating foray into the darker side of Romania’s history, exploring ethnic cleansing on the Eastern Front.

Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet lead the cast in Olivier Assayas’ NON-FICTION, a wryly comic look at the quandaries of the publishing world.

In Sara Colangelo’s THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance as a kindergarten teacher who finds herself in an ethical quagmire after discovering the poetic talents of a precocious student.

THE VICE OF HOPE is Edoardo De Angelis’ gritty, gripping and ultimately uplifting depiction of a woman desperately striving to escape a life of vice and criminality.

FREEDOM FIELDS, Naziha Arebi’s social documentary set in post-revolution Libya, charts the six-year journey of Libya’s nascent women’s football team – a path never short of obstacles – as the country descends into civil war.

Paddy Breathnach’s ROSIE, with screenplay by Roddy Doyle, is a moving and fiercely gripping response to Ireland’s current housing crisis, telling the story of a Dublin family searching for a roof for the night.

TOUCH ME NOT, Romanian director Adina Pintilie’s Berlin Golden Bear winner, is a bold, provocative film about one woman struggling with her fear of intimacy.

LAUGH From laugh-out-loud comedy, to dry and understated, Laugh celebrates humour in all its forms.

This year’s Laugh Gala, in association with Empire magazine, sees Terry Gilliam return to the Festival with the UK Premiere of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE.

The Festival will present the World Premiere of comedian Simon Amstell’s BENJAMIN, an affecting, bittersweet comedy about being weird and struggling for a connection, in which a rising young filmmaker is thrown into emotional turmoil by a burgeoning romance and the upcoming premiere of his second feature.

In the funny, lifeaffirming documentary BILL MURRAY STORIES: LIFE LESSONS LEARNED FROM A MYTHICAL MAN, director Tommy Avalone gleefully explores various urban legends around Hollywood’s most elusive star: world-weary Ghostbuster, cynical Groundhog Day-tripper or enlightened life guru?

From the makers of Hunt for the Wilderpeople comes the hilarious and unashamedly feminist comedy, THE BREAKER UPPERERS; packed full of awkward, dry Kiwi humour, the film stars writer/directors Madeline Sami and Jackie van Beek as two women who set up an agency to break couples up as a way to avoid moving on with their own lives.

Bill Nighy, Sam Riley and Alice Lowe star in SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER, Carl Hunter’s stylish and heartfelt comedy-drama about a Scrabble-obsessed tailor searching for a lost son.

Mahmoud Sabbagh’s delightful romcom Barakah Meets Barakah played in LFF 2016 to great success; his tougher follow-up, the radical black comedy AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE, exposes Saudi cultural hypocrisy with irony and wit, with a middle-aged housewife forced to take drastic measures when she learns her husband will take a second, younger spouse.

Perfect for lovers of the absurd, Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman’s TWO PLAINS AND A FANCY is the world’s first psychedelic ‘Spa Western’, a witty, trippy and discursively delightful jaunt across Colorado, featuring a fabulous cast that includes Jeune Femme’s Laetitia Dosch; silly and sincerely mindexpanding, this is one journey where digressions are more important than the destination. DARE In your face, up-front and arresting films in Dare take you out of, and beyond, your comfort zone.

The Dare Gala is Ali Abbasi’s audacious Scandinavian fantasy, BORDER. Amander Kramer’s LADYWORLD, starring Annalise Basso and Maya Hawke, is a psychological portrait of eight teenage girls trapped in a shadowy dwelling where tensions run high and nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Aaron Schimberg’s CHAINED FOR LIFE, a pulpy comedy challenging preconceptions of physical beauty, sees a Hollywood actress struggle to connect with her disfigured co-star on the set of a European auteur’s trashy B-movie.

Stand by Me meets Kafka in SUBURBAN BIRDS, Qiu Shen’s dreamy debut, telling the parallel and intertwining stories of an engineer investigating subsidence, and a group of children on an impossible quest.

THE FLOWER is Mariano Llinás’ bold and beguiling cinematic adventure on a truly epic scale, (808 minutes + intervals), about the nature of film itself, structured across three parts and six very different narrative episodes. In

Darko Štante’s CONSEQUENCES, a provocative Slovenian coming-of-age tale, a teenage tearaway is forced to face up to his actions, and confront his burgeoning sexuality.

In DOGMAN, Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone presents a masterful tale of twisted friendship, not-so-petty crime, and revenge, set in a seedy coastal town on the outskirts of Rome.

THE IMAGE BOOK, legendary director Jean-Luc Godard’s latest offering, pushes his exploration of words, sounds and images to vivid new extremes in a complex, dizzying mix of film, essay and collage.

Craig William MacNeil’s captivating drama LIZZIE sees Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart retell the strange and fascinating case of Lizzie Borden.

THRILL

Thrill features nerve-shredders that’ll get your adrenalin pumping and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This year’s Thrill Gala in association with Sight & Sound is Lee Chang-dong’s spellbinding, critically acclaimed thriller BURNING.

The Festival will present the European Premiere of Kim Nguyen’s THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT; Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård are sensational as scheming cousins on a lucrative but ethically dubious mission in this fast, funny and topical technological caper.

Award-winning Norwegian cinematographer John Andreas Andersen makes his directorial debut with THE QUAKE; could reports of subterranean tremors beneath the city of Oslo predict that catastrophe is imminent? With truly spectacular effects and exceptional performances, Andersen’s sequel to The Wave (LFF 2015) is another tension-filled, high-stakes geo-thriller.

Gustav Möller’s Sundance Audience Award-winner THE GUILTY is a superb single-location nerve-shredder about a flawed cop that expertly ramps up the tension. Oldboy meets The Usual Suspects in Lee Hae-Yeong’s hall-of-mirrors thriller BELIEVER, as a dogged South Korean narcotics officer tries to smoke out a shadowy drug baron.

Alonso Ruizpalacios’ MUSEUM, starring Gael García Bernal and Simon Russell Beale, is a dazzlingly enjoyable heist thriller about an ambitious plan to loot one of the World’s most famous museums.

Confirming the promise he showed with his powerful Of Good Report (LFF 2013), in SEW THE WINTER TO MY SKIN, Jahmil XT Qubeka takes us into the heart of Pre-Apartheid South Africa with this superb thriller based on a true story; a visceral exploration of the colonial displacement that sowed the seeds for one of the most viciously racist, political regimes in history.

Rave culture, lost love and brotherly bonds are seen through the prism of a narcotic haze in DUBLIN OLDSCHOOL, director Dave Tynan’s witty, adrenaline rush of an Irish drama, featuring rising star Emmet Kirwan.

Sara Blecher (Ayanda, LFF 2015) returns with a markedly different film, MAYFAIR, a groundbreaking, multi-cultural African gangster thriller where an estranged son must break the rules to save his family and their criminal empire.

The controversial exploits of baby-faced Argentine serial killer Carlos Robledo Puch are exhilaratingly reinterpreted in Luis Ortega’s stylish biopic EL ANGEL: a true story so eccentric, it could easily be mistaken for fiction. CULT From the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror, in the Cult strand, the dark side is welcomed.

This year’s Cult Gala is Sam Levinson’s ferocious femme exploitationer, ASSASSINATION NATION. Guto Parente’s THE CANNIBAL CLUB sees carnal desires met in a stylish satirical gore extravaganza; Otavio and Gilda are a very wealthy couple of the Brazilian elite who feed off their employees.

Timo Tjahjanto’s much-anticipated new horror film, MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU, is a spine tingling journey to hell, about a family who find themselves at the mercy of a malevolent spirit.

SCHOOL’S OUT is Sébastien Marnier’s high-school thriller, an elusive French enigma in which a precocious gang of unnervingly smart teens appears to be harbouring a dark and dangerous secret.

Dennison Ramalho’s brutal and bloody THE NIGHTSHIFTER, about a morgue worker who breaks the unspoken code of the dead, with terrifying consequences, is an evocative and idiosyncratic Brazilian chiller.

Fans of New French Extremity take note, Quarxx’s ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY is a mindbending slice of transgressive perversity, about a factory worker who lives a solitary existence devoting his time to caring for his severly disabled sister; this might just be the most outré horror film of the year.

In Panos Cosmatos’ MANDY, Nicolas Cage gives his most unhinged performance yet as a lumberjack whose utopia is shattered when a band of Satanic cultists invade his cabin and claim his ‘true love’ Mandy as their own.

KNIFE + HEART, Yann Gonzalez’s arthouse slasher movie set in the Parisian gay porn industry, stars Vanessa Paradis and Kate Moran.

JOURNEY This year’s Journey strand is presented in association with the Malta Tourism Authority Whether it’s the journey or the destination, these films will transport you and shift your perspective.

This year’s Journey Gala is Alfonso Cuarón’s luminous, heart-wrenching drama, ROMA.

Frederick Wiseman’s compelling documentary MONROVIA, INDIANA explores the importance of this small town in Indiana, a traditionally Republican state, known as the Crossroads of America.

Nothing is quite what it seems in Pieter Dumoulin and Timeau De Keyser’s enigmatic mystery ETANGS NOIRS, which sees Jimi, a young man living in the Brussels neighbourhood Cité Modèle, attempt to pass on a wrongly-delivered parcel to a local woman; when Jimi can’t locate her, his desire to deliver the parcel turns into an obsession.

Bi Gan’s LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT is a dazzling dive into a noir-like dreamscape, about a man who returns to his hometown after several years away, and traces the tracks of a mysterious woman he once knew.

MAKI’LA, Machérie Ekwa Bahango’s directorial debut, is a compassionate and acutely observed portrait of the homelessness experienced by young people in Kinshasa. THE FIGHT is the feature debut of director Jessica Hynes, a life-affirming lesson in the importance of learning to stand up for yourself.

In MAYA, Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come, Eden) crafts a beguiling, India-set road movie about a French journalist recovering from severe PTSD following his abduction in Syria.

THE WILD PEAR TREE, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s follow-up to his Palme d’Or-winning Winter Sleep, is a persuasive portrait of a young writer at odds with his hometown and family.

Morgan Neville’s scintillating documentary THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD tells the littleknown story of Orson Welles’ unfinished film The Other Side of The Wind, featuring a wealth of archive footage and contemporary interviews.

CREATE

The Create strand channels the electricity of the act of creation, celebrating artistic expression in all its forms.

Directed by Ralph Fiennes, this year’s Create Gala is the sumptuous Rudolf Nureyev biopic THE WHITE CROW.

Brosettes rejoice! The Festival will present the World Premiere of Joe Pearlman and David Soutar’s AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS; Matt and Luke Goss take on the big screen – and each other – in this candid documentary charting the twin pop sensations’ stormy reunion.

FIVE MEN AND A CARAVAGGIO sees acclaimed writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo deliver another deeply intelligent and idiosyncratic essay, located between contemporary China and post-Brexit referendum London. Ed Lilly’s VS. brings Southend’s battle-rap scene to the big screen; his debut feature is a sharp-tongued drama starring Connor Swindells as a troubled teenager trying to make rhyme pay.

Sarah Lewis’ NO IFS OR BUTS, an ebullient documentary about trend-setting Soho hair salon Cuts, also serves as a reminder of how pre-gentrification London was fertile ground for multicultural DIY creativity.

RUDEBOY: THE STORY OF TROJAN RECORDS, Nicolas Jack Davies’ stylish documentary about the iconic ska, reggae and rock-steady label, is a timely and wide-ranging celebration of British Jamaican working-class youth culture.

BLAZE, directed by Ethan Hawke, is a gonzo biopic of wild-spirited folk singer Blaze Foley and a love letter to musicians everywhere, starring Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat, and featuring Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn and Richard Linklater.

Jane Magnusson presents BERGMAN – A YEAR IN A LIFE, a fascinating study of the brilliance of Ingmar Bergman’s extraordinary career, crafted around one of his most prolific and creatively fruitful years.

BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ, directed by Pamela B. Green, narrated by Jodie Foster, sets out to shine a spotlight on the pioneering contributions of the first female filmmaker.

FAMILY Showcasing films for the young, as well as the young at heart, this year’s Family section is, as always, an international affair. The Family Gala is Mamoru Hosoda’s rapturous and fantastical take on childhood MIRAI.

Shot over eight years, Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone’s THE ELEPHANT QUEEN is a stunning documentary, beautifully narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, which tells the story of Athena, the Elephant Queen, who leads her family across Africa when drought hits their region.

In Juan Antin’s authentic animated tale, PACHAMAMA, the latest from Ernest and Celestine producer Didier Brunner, a young boy living in a remote village in the Andes Mountains dreams of becoming a shaman.

Ted Kjellsson’s exciting and thought-provoking Swedish sci-fi family drama, ALONE IN SPACE, unfolds on a huge spaceship that hosts just two human passengers… and an otherworldly lifeform.

The great master of French animation, Michel Ocelot, returns to the Festival with DILILI IN PARIS, his exquisite tale set in Paris during the Belle Époque.

Quirky, upbeat fantasy adventure JIM BUTTON AND LUKE THE ENGINE DRIVER is based on the bestseller by the author of The Neverending Story. Voiced by Stellan Skarsgård and Melinda Kinnaman,

Linda Hamback’s GORDON & PADDY is the ultimate mash-up, as Nordic Noir meets family animation, when elderly toad Gordon and fearless young mouse Paddy join forces to solve the case of the missing nuts; this witty, heart-warming tale is a detective adventure for the whole family. This section also includes a programme of animated shorts for younger audiences which bring together eclectic, exciting and colourful films from all around the globe.

TREASURES

This year sees our Treasures selection in its own strand, and once again bringing recently restored cinematic classics and discoveries from archives around the world to the Festival in London. Sweeping away the veil of time, Archive Gala THE GREAT VICTORIAN MOVING PICTURE SHOW will project Britain’s earliest films at their grandest scale.

Digitally restored in 4K resolution, Dennis Hopper’s personal, audaciously experimental follow-up to Easy Rider, THE LAST MOVIE (1971), is as wild, courageous and fascinating as its creator. A brand new 4K restoration from the original negative, and arguably John Carpenter’s most terrifying film, THE FOG (1980) is a masterclass in slow-burn suspense and creeping, insidious dread.

Restored by the Swedish Film Institute in 2K for the centenary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth, comes one of a limited number of screenings permitted of long ‘missing’ thriller HIGH TENSION (1950), the espionage drama that Bergman requested to remain unshown during his lifetime.

Sixty years on, no other big-screen comedy comes quite as close to perfection as SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959); Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon have a riot in cinema’s great screwball comedy of errors and cross-dressing.

A film of terrifying prescience, NONE SHALL ESCAPE (1944) is a major rediscovery: the only wartime Hollywood drama to depict the Holocaust. Though less well known than his comedies of the 1920s and early 1930s,

René Clair’s first post-war film SILENCE IS GOLDEN (1947), restored in 4K, is a very funny cautionary tale and arguably his masterpiece.

ENTR’ACTE (1924) is Clair’s Dadaist classic, shot for the interval in Picabia’s ballet, with music by Satie; look for Satie, Picabia, Duchamp and Man Ray amid the crazy playfulness.

Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, in association with ITV and Park Circus, Alexander Korda’s biopic of England’s most infamous ruler, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII (1933), is one of the most influential works in British film history.

Euzhan Palcy’s coming-of-age story SUGAR CANE ALLEY (1983) garnered awards and was critically acclaimed on its release; restored in 4K, her debut remains a stunning and powerful directorial statement.

In military drama TUNES OF GLORY (1960), Britain’s entry to the 1960 Venice Film Festival, British acting greats Alec Guinness and John Mills are outstanding as two officers engaged in a battle of wills.

A new restoration by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation, provides a welcome opportunity to revisit Philip Kaufman’s acclaimed adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1988) – one of the most ambitious American films of the 1980s.

EXPERIMENTA

Experimenta, in association with Lux, features films and videos by artists who transform our experience of seeing moving images. Arts Council England are also generously supporting the Experimenta programme.

Bouchra Khalili’s TWENTY-TWO HOURS, a meditation on revolutionary histories, considers the poet Jean Genet’s secret 1970 visit to the United States at the invitation of the Black Panther Party.

After rightfully scooping the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes, Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt return with DIAMANTINO, a candy floss farce that’s an absurdist delight. Using a rich variety of techniques, Richard Squires’ experimental documentary DOOZY delves deep into hidden Hollywood and the suppression of its queer stories, recreating the career of actor Paul Lynde, who played some of Hanna-Barbera’s greatest villains.

JOUR DE FETE is director John Smith’s mischievous tribute to Jacques Tati, exposing some cultural contradictions of contemporary Europe.

In Akosua Adoma Owusu’s MAHOGANY TOO, Nigerian actress Esosa E beautifully re-enacts Diana Ross’s role in Mahogany as nostalgic AfroFuturism.

Reconstructed through Super8 as if it was actual found footage, documents, newspapers and readings, BETWEEN MY FLESH AND THE WORLD’S FINGERS is director Talena Sanders’ fascinating story of lesbian poet, film pioneer and provocateur Mary MacLane, who in the early 1900s was dubbed the Wild Woman of Butte, Montana; she resisted the categorisation and prejudice of the day through the creation of multiple versions of herself.

MARIA LASSNIG: NEW YORK FILMS 1970 – 1980 presents us with a rare chance to see the personal, intimate and newly restored films of the internationally celebrated Austrian portrait painter Maria Lassnig, who died in 2014.

Dora Garcia’s SECOND TIME AROUND is a gripping experimental documentary that intertwines politics, psychoanalysis and performance through the contemporary recreation of the works of Argentinian avant-garde artist Oscar Masotta.

LFF CONNECTS & SCREEN TALKS LFF SCREEN TALK: ALFONSO CUARÓN

We’re delighted to welcome director, screenwriter, producer and editor Alfonso Cuarón to the BFI London Film Festival to talk about his career and the making of Roma, his first film in 17 years set in his native Mexico. Cuarón initially worked in television before moving into film with his 1991 feature debut, the AIDS-era satire Love in the Time of Hysteria. After moving to the US he earned both critical acclaim and commercial success with cinematic adaptations of classic novels A Little Princess (1995) and Great Expectations (1998). The smart and sexy Mexican road movie Y Tu Mamá También followed in 2001, propelling him to the front rank of international filmmakers. Cuarón then added a darker tone to the hugely popular series of big screen JK Rowling adaptations with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, before transforming London into a futuristic dystopia for 2006’s searing Children of Men. His technically innovative, visually sumptuous space thriller Gravity was awarded seven Oscars in 2014. As well as earning a Best Film Editing award, Cuarón became the first Mexican filmmaker to receive an Academy Award® for Best Director.

LFF SCREEN TALK: KEIRA KNIGHTLEY

Reinventing the costume drama with her dazzling turn in Belle Époque era biopic Colette, Keira Knightley is one of Britain’s most in-demand actors. First appearing on cinema screens at the age of nine in A Village Affair, she landed her first major role while still a teenager in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Her breakthrough performance as a tomboy soccer player in Gurinder Chadha’s 2002 comedy, Bend It Like Beckham, was followed by international blockbuster fame as part of the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and its sequels.

After showing her action movie range as warrior queen Guinevere in King Arthur, Knightley received a first Academy Award® nomination by playing Elizabeth Bennett in Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The star and director’s fruitful collaboration continued with Atonement and Anna Karenina, in 2007 and 2012 respectively. Knightley has also won acclaim for versatile work in The Duchess, A Dangerous Method and The Imitation Game, the latter bringing her a second Oscar nomination in 2015.

LFF SCREEN TALK: LEE CHANG-DONG

Having established himself as a successful novelist and screenwriter before turning to direction, Lee Chang-dong quickly earned a reputation at home and abroad as one of South Korea’s most talented filmmakers. A master of intensely emotional human dramas, he attracted immediate acclaim with 1997’s feature debut Green Fish, an incisive critique of Korean society told from the perspective of a young man who is tragically ensnared by the criminal underworld. He followed it with the ingenious reverse chronology of Peppermint Candy (1999), offering a powerful socio-political allegory for key events in the nation’s history.

After 2002’s refreshingly frank love story Oasis, Lee took a five-year break from filmmaking to become his country’s Minister of Culture. He made a stirring comeback with Secret Sunshine, an unpredictable work examining grief and deliverance, which was followed by 2010’s internationally successful Poetry, a profound meditation on the nature of life, death and memories. He joins us to talk about his career and the making of Burning, his keenly anticipated mystery thriller adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami.

LFF CONNECTS: SIR DAVID HARE

In a career spanning half a century and countless awards, playwright, screenwriter, theatre director and filmmaker Sir David Hare has written over 30 plays. These include such celebrated theatre productions as Plenty, Racing Demon, and Skylight. Hare has also provided the screenplays for a wide range of TV dramas and films, including Louis Malle’s Damage, the BAFTA-winning Licking Hitler and the BBC political thrillers known collectively as The Worricker Trilogy (which he also directed). His credits as cinema director include Wetherby (1985), Paris by Night (1988) and Strapless (1989). Hare has twice been Oscar nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, for The Hours and The Reader.

In 2011, he was awarded the PEN Printer Prize, given to a British writer who casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world. Sir David Hare joins us to discuss his work and talk about writing the screenplay for director Ralph Fiennes’ intoxicating historical drama The White Crow, which details Rudolf Nureyev’s first encounter with Parisian society in the early 1960s as star attraction of the Kirov Ballet, and the iconic principal dancer’s subsequent defection to the West.

LFF CONNECTS: SIMON AMSTELL

Simon Amstell, the award-winning comedian, TV presenter, author, actor, screen writer and feature film director joins us to discuss his journey from Popworld host and award winning stand-up to the making of his latest film Benjamin, a comedy about a rising star filmmaker, who is on the brink of premiering his difficult second film. Known for his left-field, ironic and surreal brand of comedy, Amstell began performing on the comedy circuit during his early teens and later became the youngest finalist to appear in the BBC New Comedy Awards. He won many comedy awards during his time presenting Never Mind the Buzzcocks including Best Entertainment Performance and Best Comedy Entertainment Personality. His critically acclaimed sitcom Grandma’s House, a fictionalised version of his own life and Jewish family background, which he co-wrote with Dan Swimer, ran for 12 episodes, with the first series broadcast in 2010 and the second in 2012. Amstell’s feature film debut, Carnage was broadcast on BBC iPlayer in 2017. Simon published his first book Help in 2017, which includes a collection of annotated stand-up scripts and comedic and tragic stories from his life as a budding stand- up comic to feature film writer and director.

INDUSTRY & EDUCATION

The Festival offers a full benefits package for Industry delegates. This year’s industry programme, supported by the Mayor of London, via Film London, includes the LFF CONNECTS strand which celebrates artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries; the talent development programme NET.WORK@LFF; Screen International’s UK Stars of Tomorrow 2018 and a host of other panels, talks and networking events. This year’s Festival marks the third year of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI.

At £50,000, the Bursary is the most significant of its kind in the UK film industry, supporting exceptional new or emerging talent. The bursary is eligible for emerging writers, directors and writer/directors resident in the UK, and premiering their first or second feature in the Festival. Last year’s winner was Daniel Kokotaljo (Apostasy) with Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not A Witch) and Michael Pearce (Beast) shortlisted nominees. The Festival will again host Press and Industry screenings at Picturehouse Central, provide a Digital Viewing Library, a host of delegate hubs, discounts at partner venues and numerous networking opportunities with delegates and filmmakers. Visit www.bfi.org.uk/lff/professional-delegates for further details. Details of the full industry programme will be announced in September.

The BFI London Film Festival Education programme is supported by funding contributors The Film Music Foundation, LaCie and The Sir John Cass’s Foundation and event partners Into Film, 14-18NOW, TES, London Music Masters, NFTS, London Film Academy, London Film School and SOUL. It includes a diverse range of morning screenings of films selected from the festival programme and special events for schools, students and young people, all featuring a wide range of film industry professionals, as well as the opportunity to apply to take part in our LFF Critics Mentorship Programme, and gain career insights from LFF guests at BFI Future Film events throughout the festival.

Sixteen-to-25-year-olds can also apply for Future Film Accreditation and take advantage of our 25 and Under £5 rush ticket offers. BFI PLAYER The BFI London Film Festival experience can be enjoyed UK-wide on BFI Player, the BFI’s VOD service, featuring Festival collections showcasing films from previous years. BFI London Film Festival content will be a key attraction in the range of services on BFI Player – at player.bfi.org.uk/

SPONSORS AND FUNDERS

We’re delighted that American Express join us for their ninth year as Principal Sponsor and Preferred Payment Partner. We welcome the Royal Bank of Canada as a Main Sponsor of the Festival for the third year and are thrilled to see the return of American Airlines as Main Sponsor and Official Airline. We’re delighted IWC Schaffhausen return as the Festival’s Official Time Partner. We give heartfelt thanks to The May Fair Hotel, who return celebrating their tenth year as the Festival’s Official Hotel and Renault, our Official Car Partner.

This year we extend a very warm Festival welcome to a number of new partners: LaCie who support our Future Film Day for young filmmakers, The Malta Tourism Authority who are partnering on our Journey Strand, Omorovicza – the award winning skincare brand who join as our Official Beauty and Skincare partner and Persol, the iconic, luxury eyewear brand who will be supporting our Awards. The BFI London Film Festival is made possible thanks to support from DCMS and The National Lottery and many other cultural institutions and organisations.

We are also delighted to be supported directly by the Mayor of London through Film London as a funding contributor. The remastering and new score of the BFI Archive Gala film is supported by the Eric Anker-Petersen Charity. With additional support from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and the John S Cohen Foundation.

Films by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Prestwich and Gaumont all restored in 2018 by the BFI National Archive in collaboration with EYE Filmmuseum and Haghefilm. A huge thank you goes to the Festival’s generous in-kind Sponsors: returning photography sponsor Getty Images and cinema advertising partner Digital Cinema Media.

Additionally, we would like to welcome back DDA and thank Audemus Spirits: Pink Pepper Gin, Dalston Cola, Dresd, Exterion Media, Fever-Tree, Harkness Screens, The Hospital Club, The House of St Barnabas, Impact Marketing, The Library, Maltsmiths, Motion Picture Solutions, Omnex, Picture Production Company, TV5 Monde and The Union for their continued support. Cinema partners returning this year are Vue, Curzon, Picturehouse, ICA, Ciné Lumière, Prince Charles Cinema and Rich Mix. We are delighted to welcome back returning Media Partners Evening Standard, Time Out, Empire, Sight & Sound, Screen International, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Little White Lies as well as valued Broadcast Partners BBC London and Magic FM for continuing to provide invaluable media support.

The Festival would also like to give a huge thanks to returning sponsors Christie Digital, Dolby Laboratories, Inc. and Newman Displays. Finally, the Festival would like to thank the many embassies and cultural institutes who support the Festival by helping to bring in filmmakers to present their work. A

About the BFI The BFI is the lead organisation for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:

• Connecting audiences to the widest choice of British and World cinema

• Preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations

• Championing emerging and world class film makers in the UK – investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work

• Promoting British film and talent to the world • Growing the next generation of film makers and audiences

The BFI is a Government arm’s-length body and distributor of Lottery funds for film. The BFI serves a public role which covers the cultural, creative and economic aspects of film in the UK. It delivers this role:

• As the UK-wide organisation for film, a charity core funded by Government • By providing Lottery and Government funds for film across the UK

• By working with partners to advance the position of film in the UK. Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.

The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger.

The BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival is Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s best film festivals. It introduces the finest new British and international films to an expanding London and UK-wide audience and attracts significant international film industry participation. LFF is a compelling combination of diverse films, red carpet glamour, friendly audiences and vibrant exchange. LFF provides an essential profiling opportunity for films seeking global success; promotes the careers of British and international filmmakers through its industry and awards programmes and positions London as the world’s leading creative city. Tricia Tuttle Biography Tricia Tuttle’s appointment as Artistic Director follows five successful years as Deputy Head of Festivals at BFI, including BFI Flare and BFI London Film Festival.

Moving from North Carolina in 1997 to complete a joint MA at BFI and Birkbeck, University of London in Film and TV Studies, Tricia’s passion for film has seen her work as a programmer, lecturer, writer and journalist. Her career has spanned a five year tenure at BAFTA, starting in 2008 and with her appointment as Film Programme Manager in 2011; programming the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (the pre-cursor to BFI Flare) and as Event Producer at London’s The Script Factory. Highly regarded by the BFI and industry, Tuttle has been instrumental in evolving BFI Festivals, continuing to expand audience reach year on year and introducing impactful initiatives such as BFI Flare’s FiveFilms4Freedom, in partnership with the British Council.

About Amex Invites American Express connects Cardmembers to the kinds of rewarding experiences and opportunities that matter to them and their businesses. Through Amex Invites, Cardmembers have access to presale tickets, as well as the best seats and exclusive offers at some of the UK’s most sought-after entertainment events via partnerships with a range of entertainment institutions including AEG, Live Nation, Somerset House, The British Film Institute and The National Theatre. Amex Invites is just one example of the powerful backing that American Express provides its customers. About American Express American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, instagram.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/company/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.

2017 BFI London Film Festival: programming slate announced

August 31, 2017

2017 BFI London Film Festival logo

The following is a press release from the BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® today announces its full programme, featuring a diverse selection of 242 feature films from both established and emerging talent. This 12 day celebration of cinema illustrates the richness of international filmmaking, with films to delight and entertain audiences, and also films that probe and interrogate issues of significance.

The Festival is the UK’s leading and most prestigious film festival, representing one of the first opportunities for audiences – both the UK public and film industry professionals – to see the very best new films from across the globe, alongside an events programme with some of the world’s most inspiring creative talents. This year, the Festival will host 28 World Premieres, 9 International Premieres and 34 European Premieres and will welcome a stellar line up of cast and crew for many of the films.’

The 242 feature programmes screening at the Festival include: 46 documentaries, 6 animations, 14 archive restorations and 16 artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 128 short films, and 67 countries are represented across short film and features.
Each evening of the Festival sees a Headline Gala presentation at Odeon Leicester Square. Films in Official Competition and Strand Galas are once again presented at the 820-seat Embankment Garden Cinema following a successful inaugural year in 2016, with audiences and filmmakers alike praising its quality of cinema experience. This temporary venue, constructed to the highest technical specifications, brings the festival to even more people and connects screenings in the West End with the BFI’s home cinema at BFI Southbank.

Alongside the Galas, Special Presentations and films in Competitions, the Festival will show a thrilling range of new cinema in sections Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Experimenta and Family – which provide pathways for audiences to navigate the programme. In 2017, the LFF presents a new strand, Create, featuring films that celebrate artistic practice in all its channels and forms the electricity of the creative process, reflecting London’s position as one of the world’s leading creative cities.

Audiences have the opportunity to hear some of the world’s creative leaders through the Festival’s acclaimed talks’ series LFF Connects, which features artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries, and Screen Talks, a series of in-depth interviews with leaders in contemporary cinema. Participants this year include Julian Rosefeldt & Cate Blanchett, David Fincher, Demis Hassabis, Nitin Sawhney, Johan Knattrup Jensen, Ian McEwan and Takashi Miike.

As one of the few film festivals in the world to be staged in a production capital, the Festival takes its place as a jewel in the crown of London’s cultural calendar, channelling the excellence of one of the world’s most vibrant cultural cities, and highlighting the enormous wealth of talent working in film today, both behind and in front of the camera. Alongside the industry programme and Awards, the Festival proudly acts as a launch
pad for new as well as established voices, and supports filmmakers throughout their career aiming to interrogate how film and filmmaking reflects – and reflects on – our society.

The BFI London Film Festival each year provides a vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas, with films stimulating debate and shining a light on pressing social and political issues. This year a number of ‘talking points’ ripple through the Festival programme, including:
• LBGT – In the year of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Festival presents a powerful LGBT line-up.
• Immigration and Social Division – Two of the defining themes of our times are explored by filmmakers who are committed to telling powerful and complex stories about borders – both real and psychological.
• Black Star – Following the BFI’s landmark season celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors in film, recent world events give new urgency to questions of opportunity, and basic human rights.
• Visionaries – Cinema remains one of the most exhilaratingly kinetic and visually potent storytelling forms, and many filmmakers this year impress with the singularity and power of their vision, with keen imagination and dazzling style.
• Thrill – It’s a very strong year for global thrill seekers at the Festival, with a particularly strong showing from East Asia, which comes as the BFI embarks on the UK-wide season BFI Thriller, exploring how the genre reflects societal upheavals, fears and anxieties.
• Strong Women – The Festival continues to shine a light on strong women behind and in front of the camera. At this year’s Festival, 61 women directors are represented in the feature film selection, approximately 25% of the programme.
• Deafness and disability – Both feature with marked prominence in this year’s Festival programme, though the film industry still has a long way to go in terms of representation for disabled people. The Festival’s industry programme will include a partnership event on equality of opportunity and expression for deaf and disabled people working in film & television.
The Festival takes over screens at fifteen venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas – Vue Leicester Square and the iconic Odeon Leicester Square; central London venues – BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Picturehouse Central, the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Empire Haymarket, Prince Charles Cinema and Ciné Lumière; and local cinemas – Hackney Picturehouse , Rich Mix in Shoreditch and Curzon Chelsea. Special screenings will also be held at the National Gallery and the Barbican, and several key events will also be cinecasted to cinema venues around the UK.

“It is a delight to welcome some of the most thrilling storytellers from across the world to the Festival – we love to watch and engage with the extraordinary conversations that the Festival brings to our doorstep with every edition,” comments Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive, BFI. “London has a big heart and this year we are again reminded of the generosity and freedom of this awesome capital city of ours which so readily embraces this multiplicity of cultures and new voices. This creativity is reflected across the UK and the engine that is enabling filmmaking to thrive, supported by a favourable fiscal environment, outstanding skills and talent and ever expanding infrastructure and facilities.”

“In these globally tumultuous times, filmmakers around the world have increasingly urgent stories to tell and more reasons than ever to reimagine our reality,” comments Clare Stewart, Festival Director. “This year’s BFI London Film Festival programme is rich with opportunity – to stay informed, be challenged, feel the pleasure of escape and see the world differently.”
Whether it’s short films or documentaries, live action or animation, audiences should find a film to suit their passions – and with a range of ticket options, including family ticket prices and £5 rush tickets for under-25s, the Festival will bring the vibrancy of the world’s film industry to as many people as possible, offering an unparalleled experience to see the films that everyone will be talking for months.

GALAS

OPENING & CLOSING NIGHT GALAS

As previously announced, the Festival opens with the European Premiere of BREATHE, the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, on Wednesday 4 October. Adventurous and charismatic, Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) has his whole life ahead of him when he is paralysed by polio whilst in Africa and given just months to live. Against all advice, Robin’s wife Diana (Claire Foy) brings him home from hospital where her devotion and witty determination inspire him to lead along and fulfilled life. Together they refuse to be limited by expectations, dazzling others with their humour, courage and lust for life. A live cinecast brings all of the excitement from Leicester Square to simultaneous screenings taking place at cinemas across the UK.

The Festival closes with Martin McDonagh’s THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI on Sunday 15 October, marking McDonagh’s return to the Festival following the presentation of Seven Pyschopaths (2012). THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comic drama, which sees Mildred Hayes (Academy Award® winner Frances McDormand) take a stand against the town’s revered chief of police, William Willoughby (Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson) after months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case.

HEADLINE GALAS

The American Express Gala is the rousing BATTLE OF THE SEXES. Receiving its European Premiere, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s film dramatises the build up to the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men’s-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). Billed ‘Battle of the Sexes’ in the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the match became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME features as the Mayor of London’s Gala. Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash LFF 2015) returns to the Festival with this adaptation of André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel – a sun-kissed, cinematic ode to the ecstasy and exquisite pain of first love, starring Timothée Chalamet as Elio, a musically gifted 17-year-old whose idyllic summer break takes a tumultuous turn when Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives to stay at the family palazzo.

The BFI Patrons’ Gala, DOWNSIZING, is a wildly inventive and satirical film from Alexander Payne (Nebraska, LFF 2014) which puts climate change, mobility and immigration under the microscope. After Norwegian scientists discover a method for shrinking people to pocket-size as part of a grand design to limit humanity’s footprint, a thriving parallel ‘small’ society emerges. Ordinary, work-a-day Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) wants to scale-up his options by sizing-down, but things begin to go awry when his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) gets cold feet.

The May Fair Hotel Gala is the European Premiere of FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL, in which Annette Bening and Jamie Bell vividly bring to the screen the intense romance between Academy Award®-winning star of The Big Heat and In a Lonely Place, Gloria Grahame and her much younger lover. The film is directed by Paul McGuigan and produced by Colin Vaines and Barbara Broccoli.

Director Saul Dibb brings R C Sheriff’s classic play JOURNEY’S END to the big screen with shattering potency. When C Company, led by Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin) is about to take its posting on the front line during the First World War, with munitions and morale depleted each man’s character is laid bare. The film receives its European Premiere at the LFF.
Yorgos Lanthimos follow-ups The Lobster (LFF 2015), with Headline Gala THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star in a deliciously twisted and slyly macabre morality tale which interlaces elements of Greek tragedy, surrealism and absurdist horror.

Richard Linklater returns to the Festival with the International Premiere of LAST FLAG FLYING, a tribute and sequel to Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail. Both droll road movie and a meditation on the futility of war, the film stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne as an endearingly shambolic threesome of veterans reunited by one man’s tragedy.

MUDBOUND is Dees Rees’ triumphant return to the Festival after Pariah (LFF 2011). Receiving its European Premiere as the Royal Bank of Canada Gala, her majestic epic examines the histories of two families in the Deep South, charting how the unlikely friendship of two Second World War veterans ignites racial tension.

Exuberantly drawing on classic 1950s sci-fi B-movies and the on-going fascination with Area 51 conspiracy theories, the American Airlines Gala THE SHAPE OF WATER, is an old-school tale of the inexplicable and pure cinematic joy from Guillermo del Toro, featuring a wonderful central performance from Sally Hawkins.
Former Best Film and Sutherland Winner, Lynne Ramsay returns to the Festival with Headline Gala YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, a stark inversion of the noir thriller. This devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse is anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

STRAND AND FESTIVAL GALAS

The Festival Gala, in association with Time Out, features Sean Baker’s magical, magnificent and madcap follow up to Tangerine (LFF 2015), THE FLORIDA PROJECT, an instant classic about childhood innocence set against the backdrop of America’s failed economy.
More about Strand Galas can be found in each of the sections below but in 2017, they are: the Dare Gala, François Ozon’s AMANT DOUBLE; the Family Gala, Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert’s THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES; the Thrill Gala, Takashi Miike’s BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL; the Debate Gala, Samuel Maoz’s FOXTROT; the Laugh Gala in association with Empire, Noah Baumbach’s THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED); the Love Gala, Dominic Cooke’s ON CHESIL BEACH; the Create Gala, Michel Hazanavicius’ REDOUBTABLE; the Archive Gala, SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA; the Cult Gala, Joachim Trier’s THELMA and the Journey Gala, Todd Haynes’ WONDERSTRUCK.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

Eight Special Presentations shine the spotlight on new work from major directors. The European Premiere of DARK RIVER is Clio Barnard’s searing, eloquent response to Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass in which two siblings struggle to come to terms with their inheritance following the death of their father. With HAPPY END, Michael Haneke ingeniously reworks and updates the enduringly relevant themes of all his previous films in one brief, brilliant, sometimes slyly satirical gem, whilst Sally Potter’s THE PARTY brings together a brilliant ensemble cast for a supremely entertaining satire on Britain’s political elite. Lucretia Martel makes an eagerly awaited follow up to 2008’s The Headless Woman with ZAMA, presented in association with Sight & Sound, a film charting the epic decline of an 18th century colonial empire ruled over by a distant Spain.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, the BFI Flare Special Presentation returns with A FANTASTIC WOMAN, Sebastián Lelio’s brilliant and avowedly queer drama about a transwoman navigating the death of her lover. The Documentary Special Presentation is the European Premiere of THE FINAL YEAR, recounting the final, momentous year of the Obama administration with extraordinary intimacy by Greg Barker, whose Manhunt screened in the LFF 2013 Documentary Competition, whilst the Experimenta Special Presentation, LOOKING FOR OUM KULTHUM sees the return of Iranian artist Shirin Neshat with a film-within-a-film about one of the Arab world’s greatest ever female vocalists. Finally, 2017 sees the first LFF Connects Special Presentation with the European Premiere of the first two episodes of MINDHUNTER, David Fincher’s sharply scripted Zodiac-style procedural, based on the men who first coined the phrase ‘serial killer’.

Key filmmaking talent due to attend the Festival’s gala and special presentation screenings include:
Andy Serkis, Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Martin McDonagh, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Luca Guadagnino, Timothée Chalamet, Paul McGuigan, Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Saul Dibb, Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham, Yorgos Lanthimos, Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Dee Rees, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Guillermo del Toro, Lynne Ramsay, Joaquin Phoenix, François Ozon, Patrick Imbert, Takashi Miike, Sean Baker, Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, Valeria Cotto, Bria Vinaite, Samuel Maoz, Noah Baumbach, Emma Thompson, Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Michel Hazanavicius, Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo, Joachim Trier, Todd Haynes, Oakes Fegley, Jaden Michael, Clio Barnard, Daniela Vega, Greg Barker, Shirin Neshat, David Fincher, Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallanay, Sally Potter, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Lucrecia Martel.

AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS

The BFI London Film Festival Awards celebrate the highest creative achievements of British and international filmmakers showcased in our Competitive sections, applauding extraordinary storytelling and inventive filmmaking across all the categories. The winners in each competition are selected by festival juries and announced at the LFF Awards, a high profile awards dinner held at Banqueting House on Saturday 14 October.

The Best Film Award is presented to the winner of the Official Competition; the Sutherland Award is presented to the winner of the First Feature Competition and the Grierson Award is presented to the winning film in the Documentary Competition. Each section is open to International and British films. The Jury for each category will be announced ahead of the opening of the Festival. Paul Greengrass will be presented with the BFI Fellowship award at this year’s Awards ceremony.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

The Official Competition, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following shortlisted titles:
 Robin Campillo, 120 BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
 Vivian Qu, ANGELS WEAR WHITE
 Majid Majidi, BEYOND THE CLOUDS (World Premiere)
 Nora Twomey, THE BREADWINNER (European Premiere)
 Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, GOOD MANNERS
 Xavier Beauvois, THE GUARDIANS (European Premiere)
 Andrew Haigh, LEAN ON PETE
 Andrey Zvyagintsev, LOVELESS
 Azazel Jacobs, THE LOVERS (European Premiere)
 Warwick Thornton, SWEET COUNTRY
 Cory Finley, THOROUGHBRED (International Premiere)
 Annemarie Jacir, WAJIB
FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION
Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:
 Daniel Kokotajlo, APOSTASY
 Léa Mysius, AVA
 Michael Pearce, BEAST (European Premiere)
 Ofir Raul Graizer, THE CAKEMAKER
 Gilles Coulier, CARGO
 Kogonada, COLUMBUS
 Rungano Nyoni, I AM NOT A WITCH
 Léonor Serraille, JEUNE FEMME
 Ana Asensio, MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND
 Carla Simón, SUMMER 1993
 Hlynur Pálmason, WINTER BROTHERS
 John Trengove, THE WOUND
DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:
 Maryam Goormaghtigh, BEFORE SUMMER ENDS
 Elvira Lind, BOBBI JENE
 Arash Kamali Sarvestani, Behrouz Boochani, CHAUKA, PLEASE TELL US THE TIME (International Premiere)
 Radu Jude, THE DEAD NATION
 Shevaun Mizrahi, DISTANT CONSTELLATION
 Frederick Wiseman, EX LIBRIS – THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
 Agnès Varda, JR, FACES PLACES
 Austin Lynch, Matthew Booth, GRAY HOUSE
 Brett Morgen, JANE (European Premiere)
 Lucy Cohen, KINGDOM OF US (World Premiere)
 Emmanuel Gras, MAKALA
 Sonia Kronlund, THE PRINCE OF NOTHINGWOOD

SHORT FILM AWARD

The Short Film Award recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. This year the Festival is screening:
 Gabriel Abrantes, THE ARTIFICIAL HUMORS
 Phil Collins, DELETE BEACH
 Billie Pleffer, FYSH (International Premiere)
 Anna Cazenave Cambet, GABBER LOVER
 Karishma Dube, GODDESS
 Aegina Brahim, LAWS OF THE GAME
 Jonathan Vinel, MARTIN CRIES
 Patrick Bresnan THE RABBIT HUNT
 Moin Hussain, REAL GODS REQUIRE BLOOD
 Kibwe Tavares, ROBOT & SCARECROW
 Kazik Radwanski, SCAFFOLD
 Harry Lighton, WREN BOYS (World Premiere)
Additional filmmaking talent attending for feature films in competition include:
Robin Campillo, Vivian Qu, Majid Majidi, Nora Twomey, Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, Xavier Beauvois, Laura Smet, Andrew Haigh, Charlie Plummer, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Azazel Jacobs, Warwick Thornton, Cory Finley, Annemarie Jacir, Daniel Kokotajlo, Michael Pearce, Ofir Raul Graizer, Gilles Coulier, Rungano Nyoni, Léonor Sérraille, Laetitia Dosch, Ana Asensio, Carla Simón, Hlynur Pálmason, John Trengove, Maryam Goormaghtigh,
Elvira Lind, Arash Kamali Sarvestani, Radu Jude, Shevaun Mizrahi, Frederick Wiseman, Austin Lynch, Matthew Booth, Brett Morgen, Emmanuel Gras, Sonia Kronlund.
The Festival will announce its complete guest line up for all sections in early October.

STRANDS

The Festival programme is organised in sections to encourage discovery and to open up the Festival to new audiences. The strands are: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Family, Treasures and Experimenta.

LOVE

Sweet, passionate, tough – Love is a complex and many-splendoured thing and this selection charts the highs and lows of many kinds of love from around the globe. The Love Gala is the European Premiere of Dominic Cooke’s quietly heart-breaking film debut ON CHESIL BEACH. Saoirse Ronan and rising actor Billy Howle star as a young couple in the early 1960s struggling to physically connect on their honeymoon, impeccably adapted for the big screen by Ian McEwan from his own Man Booker-shortlisted novela.
Oher highlights in this section include: CLOSE-KNIT, Naoko Ogigami’s quietly subversive and emotionally rich portrait of a transwoman whose maternal feelings are stirred by the arrival of her boyfriend’s 11-year-old niece; THE GROWN-UPS, Maïte Alberdi’s tender and bittersweet documentary portrait of Chileans Anita and Andres, who have Down’s syndrome and are very much in love; the World Premiere of Carlos Marques-Marcet’s ANCHOR AND HOPE, a London-set story about modern love and family featuring Oona Chaplin; John Cameron Mitchell’s cosmic ride HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES, sees aliens have landed in 1970s Croydon in a funny, energetic love story starring Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp and Nicole Kidman; the World Premiere of JOURNEYMAN, features Paddy Considine following up his acclaimed debut Tyrannosaur with the story of a boxer who must rebuild his life after a near-fatal injury; GOING WEST, a World Premiere from Norwegian newcomer Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken who delivers a sweetly delicious road movie; LET THE SUNSHINE IN, Claire Denis’ darkly witty drama starring Juliette Binoche as an artist caught up in a series of unsatisfying affairs, and David Gordon Green’s rousing yet devastating true-story drama STRONGER featuring a remarkable performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing.

DEBATE

Representing films that amplify, scrutinize, argue and surprise, Debate inspires riveting conversation, which is never more engaging than when the world outside the cinema is reflected back at us. This year’s Debate Gala is Samuel Maoz’s FOXTROT, a film that combines thrilling cinematography with superb performances, and highlights the absurdities of conscripted service.
Debate also includes: BIRDS ARE SINGING IN KIGALI, Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze’s hard-hitting drama about the intertwined lives of two refugee survivors reeling from the impact of the Rwandan genocide and containing powerful central performances; the World Premiere of THE CLIMB, Michael Woodward’s debut documentary that charts Greenpeace’s daring all-female team that illegally ascended The Shard in protest against petroleum giant Shell’s plans to dig for oil in the Arctic; the World Premiere of THE FORGIVEN, Roland Joffé’s political drama starring Forest Whitaker as Desmond Tutu and Eric Bana as Piet Blomfeld, asking how far we can go in forgiving past crimes; the World Premiere of ISLAND, Steven Eastwood’s haunting and deeply moving documentary combining observational footage with contemplative shots of the costal landscapes of the Isle of Wight, and set among terminally ill cancer patients, and THE VENERABLE W., Barbet Schroeder’s disturbingly illuminating portrait of Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who was known for espousing anti-Muslim hatred.

LAUGH

From laugh-out-loud comedy, to dry and understated, Laugh celebrates humour in all its forms. This year’s Laugh Gala, in association with Empire magazine, is Noah Baumbach’s THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND
SELECTED). A stellar cast give uniformly excellent performances, including Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Elizabeth Marvel and Emma Thompson. Through the madcap antics of a neurotic, failure-obsessed clan, Baumbach surfaces bigger questions about how to value family and the meaning of success.
Laugh also includes: the World Premiere of Adrian Shergold’s FUNNY COW, which contains a formidable performance from Maxine Peake as an aspiring stand-up comic confronting her violent husband and the sexist Northern England club circuit; INGRID GOES WEST, Matt Spicer’s jet-black stalker comedy brilliantly skewers dangerous obsession and the sham of Instagrammed perfection with wicked and fearless performances from Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza; joy and grace flow out of Dustin Guy Defa’s observational comedy drama PERSON TO PERSON, starring Michael Cera as a reporter keen on quoting (his own) heavy metal lyrics; Daan Bakker’s QUALITY TIME is perfect for lovers of experimental and irreverent cinema offering a portmanteau selection of stories of male arrested development; and Henrik Ruben Genz’s WORD OF GOD is set months after the Chernobyl disaster and provides dark and dirty humour where pretty much nothing is off limits.

DARE

In your face, up-front and arresting, films in Dare take you out of, and beyond, your comfort zone. The Dare Gala is François Ozon’s frisky new thriller, AMANT DOUBLE, a deliciously duplicitous tale of psychoanalysis and seduction that channels the spirits of Hitchcock and De Palma at their naughtiest and stars Jérémie Renier, Marine Vacth and Jacqueline Bisset.
Other highlights in the strand include: Eliza Hittman’s BEACH RATS, a gripping investigation of repressed sexual desire in a hyper-masculine environment; Jon Garaño and Aitor Arregi’s touching drama GIANT, set in 19th century Spain and based on the true story of Mikel Jokin Eleizegi, allegedly the tallest man of his time; Semih Kaplanoğlu’s spellbinding dystopian sci-fi, GRAIN in which climate change has caused the near-extinction of human life; Liu Jian’s adult animé HAVE A NICE DAY, a biting, bone-dry satire on contemporary Chinese social mores and featuring plenty of bloodthirsty Tarantino-esque genre thrills; the European Premiere of Bornila Chatterjee’s THE HUNGRY, which reworks Shakespeare’s bloody Titus Andronicus into a macabre modern tragedy set in Northern India; Barbara Albert’s resplendent drama MADEMOISELLE PARADIS, based on the true story of Maria Theresia ‘Resi’ von Paradis, a gifted blind musician and contemporary of Mozart, paraded through Vienna’s courts to perform; Jean Libon and Yves Hinant’s jaw-dropping and extraordinary documentary SO HELP ME GOD, which details the work of an unorthodox Belgian judge Anne Gruwez as she tackles gruesome crimes, domestic violence and other sordid cases; and WESTERN, director Valeska Grisebach’s contemporary western in which tensions mount between German construction workers and Bulgarian villagers in a small rural town.

THRILL

Thrill features nerve-shredders that’ll get your adrenaline pumping and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This year’s Thrill Gala is Takashi Miike’s savage and inventive action thriller, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, based on the famous manga series by Hiroaki Samurai about a samurai cursed with immortal life and has the distinction of being Miike’s 100th feature film.
Thrill also features: the European Premiere of Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Thai teen thriller BAD GENIUS, in which young brainiac Lynn uses a very special set of skills to cheat on behalf of her classmates in the high-stakes world of entrance exams for elite international universities; the European Premiere of Anurag Kashyap’s THE BRAWLER in which a young and talented Indian boxer dreams of being champion, but is knocked sideways when he falls for the niece of the man blocking his road to success; Aaron Katz’s GEMINI in which a heinous crime tests the complex relationship between a tenacious personal assistant, Jill played by Lola Kirke and her Hollywood movie star boss Heather played by Zoë Kravitz; the Safdie brothers’ latest film GOOD TIME features Robert Pattinson as a small-time New York criminal, who after a bank robbery goes seriously wrong, devises a plan to spring his injured accomplice from police custody; Jennifer Peedom’s spectacular documentary MOUNTAIN, is a mind-blowing symphony of images and sound chronicling the powerful attraction mountains hold over us; love, crime and action combine in a taut and twisty thriller-cum-romance in Michaël R. Roskam’s RACER AND THE JAILBIRD starring Adèle Exarchopoulos as Bibi, a young racing driver
and Matthias Schoenaerts as Gigi the Jailbird, a dashing playboy with, it seems, time and money to burn; Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms’ blackly comic, crime noir, SMALL TOWN CRIME (European Premiere) stars John Hawkes as alcoholic former cop Mike, channelling a drunk Columbo who embarks on his own unofficial crime investigation while Octavia Spencer plays his supportive sister Kelly who is starting to lose patience with Mike’s lying, drifting and drinking; and the International Premiere of Xin Yukun’s sophisticated arthouse thriller, WRATH OF SILENCE featuring martial arts maestro Song Yang, as a mute bruiser who returns to his home, a remote farming village, following the disappearance of his son. With tight plotting, memorable characters and an unforgettable climax, director Xin Yukun establishes himself as a new international filmmaker you need to know.

CULT

From the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror, in the Cult strand, the dark side is welcomed. The Cult Gala is Joachim Trier’s subtle shocker THELMA, a supernaturally-tinged tale of a young woman’s macabre coming of age.
Other titles in the strand include: S. Craig Zahler’s genre-bending, bone-crunching exercise in slow-burn suspense, BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, starring Vince Vaughn as a former boxer-turned mechanic involved in a drug deal that goes wrong that sees him behind bars; the walking dead get a second chance at life in David Freyne’s debut THE CURED starring Ellen Page in an inventive and surprising post-zombie era drama where a cure has been found for the infected and the rehabilitated are transitioned back into society; the World Premiere of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s GHOST STORIES in which they bring their hit London stage play to the big screen, with suitably chilling results. Nyman plays Phillip Goodman, an academic and professional sceptic out to debunk claims of the supernatural , but when he stumbles across a long lost file containing three unsolved cases of the Occult, his whole belief system – not to mention his sanity – is thrown into question; LET THE CORPSES TAN is directing duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s influential 1971 crime novel and the result is a sun-drenched Western-tinged, crime-caper; MY FRIEND DAHMER is director Marc Meyers’ adaptation of John Backderf’s revered graphic novel and is an unnerving portrait of one of America’s most prolific murderers, Jeffrey Dahmer; and Paco Plaza’s much-anticipated new horror film, VERONICA, inspired by an actual unsolved case in Spain and a no-holds-barred supernatural shocker.

JOURNEY

Whether it’s the journey or the destination, these films will transport you and shift your perspective. This year’s Journey Gala is Todd Haynes’ new film WONDERSTRUCK, an enthralling adaptation of Brian Selznick’s acclaimed young adult novel. Featuring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in supporting roles alongside a gifted young cast, Oakes Fegley and newcomer Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress making her film debut, it is both a whimsical children’s film for adults and a refreshingly grown-up film for children.
Other Journey titles include: Arshad Khan’s ABU, a compelling documentary about a young Pakistani man’s difficulties in coping with migration and the resultant cultural change, his emerging sexuality and an increasingly orthodox father; Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji’s THE JOURNEY, a taut, thought-provoking thriller that tackles what might just be the final moments of a potential suicide bomber’s life; David Batty’s stylish documentary MY GENERATION, presented and narrated by Michael Caine, playfully explores the impact of Britain’s working class cultural revolution in the 1960s and features a wealth of archive footage and a spot-on soundtrack from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who, which makes for an exhilarating journey back in time; the European Premiere of Egyptian director Amr Salama’s SHEIKH JACKSON, a bittersweet and poignant tale of an Islamist preacher experiencing a crisis of faith following the death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson; Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh’s fascinating and immersive exploration of mindfulness, WALK WITH ME, featuring narration by Benedict Cumberbatch, follows the daily rituals and routine of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and offers a rare insight into life within a monastic community; and the World Premiere of THE WHITE GIRL, where debut director Jenny Suen collaborates with legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle on an intoxicating and textually rich film.

CREATE

The brand new Create strand channels the electricity of the act of creation, celebrating artistic expression in all its forms. The inaugural Create Gala is Michel Hazanavicius’ REDOUBTABLE, an audacious, multi-layered biopic of French cinema’s most notorious director, Jean-Luc Godard.
Also in Create: Greg Kohs’ ALPHAGO the story of how Google’s DeepMind team took on Go world champion Lee Sedol, posing questions about whether computers can think creatively and whether there is an algorithm for intuition; the World Premiere of THE BALLAD OF SHIRLEY COLLINS, Rob Curry and Tim Plester’s portrait of one of the great British folks singers who mysteriously lost her voice in 1980; G-FUNK tells the story of how three childhood friends from East Long Beach Warren G, Snoop Dogg and the late great Nate Dogg, transformed hip-hop into a global phenomenon and changed the world; the World Premiere of William Badgely’s HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS is a riveting film about the game-changing and largely female feminist punk band; Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s LOVING VINCENT is a stunning, fully painted animated feature created in the style of Van Gogh’s paintings matching extraordinary style with richly satisfying storytelling, broadcast live from the National Gallery to cinemas nationwide; and Julian Rosefeldt’s MANIFESTO starring Cate Blanchett as thirteen different characters in this energetic tribute to artistic troublemakers.

FAMILY

Showcasing films for the young, as well as the young at heart, this year’s Family section is, as always, an international affair. The Family Gala is THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES, an outstanding, laugh-a-minute animation from Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, the team behind Ernest & Celestine (LFF 2012, Family Gala) and is guaranteed to appeal to adults as much as it will to children.
Other highlights include Chang-yong Moon and Jin Jeon’s beautifully made documentary BECOMING WHO I WAS about a young monk Padma Angdu, who is said to be the latest incarnation of a religious teacher, known as a Rinpoche, and his attempts to reach the home he had in a former life; Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang’s visually breath-taking Chinese animated fantasy, BIG FISH & BEGONIA is as near to the best of Studio Ghibli as you’re likely to find anywhere; Meikeminne Clinckspoor’s family adventure CLOUDBOY is about 12-year-old Niilas who is sent away against his wishes to spend the summer with his estranged mother in Swedish Lapland, among the indigenous reindeer herding Sami people; and winner of the top prize at this year’s Annecy Animation Film Festival, Masaaki Yuasa’s anime LU OVER THE WALL brings human and merfolk together with surprising outcomes. This funky, upbeat tale is full of energy, features cute ‘merdogs’, musical mermaids and a giant humanoid shark and has a really cool soundtrack.
This section also includes a programme of animated shorts for younger audiences which bring together eclectic, exciting and colourful films from all around the globe.

TREASURES

Integrated into our strands, our Treasures selection brings recently restored cinematic classics from archives around the world to the Festival in London. The Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the BFI National Archive restoration of the silent film SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA (1928), a ravishing, romantic tale based on the story of the 17th century Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, his queen and the building of the world’s most beautiful monument to love, the Taj Mahal. Directed by Franz Osten, based on a play by Niranjan Pal and starring and produced by Himansu Rai, the film was shot entirely in India and performed by an all-Indian cast. A new score commissioned by the BFI from world-renowned sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar will be performed live with an ensemble of musicians playing Indian and western instruments. The restoration and new score are part of the BFI’s contribution to the UK-India Year of Culture 2017.
Other highlights include the World Premieres of the 4K restoration by Sony Pictures Entertainment of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946); the digitally remastered experimental documentary FRANTZ FANON: BLACK SKIN WHITE MASK (1996), directed by artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien, as well as the new 4K restoration, by The BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation, of Terry Gilliam’s first feature as a solo director, JABBERWOCKY (1977). The Festival will also screen the 4K restoration of Toshio Matsumoto’s
FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES (1969), a wild, kaleidoscopic vision of the underground scene in 1960s Japan and a significant influence on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Italian genre-master Dario Argento’s eye-popping slice of technicolour terror, SUSPIRIA (1977) with stunning 4K restoration.

EXPERIMENTA

Experimenta, in association with Lux, features films and videos by artists who transform our experience of seeing moving images. Arts Council England are also generously supporting the Experimenta programme.
Highlights include: the World Premiere of Benedict Seymour’s DEAD THE ENDS, a politically urgent retelling of Chris Marker’s La Jetée bookended by the 2011 London riots; ERASE AND FORGET, Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s film is an excavation of the influence of fiction on truth in the American imagination of warfare and gun culture; the World Premiere of LEK AND THE DOGS, Andrew Kötting’s account of the ultimate outsider uses a range of visual styles derived from avant garde and genre cinema, and Kevin Jerome Everson’s TONSLER PARK uses an unobtrusive observational style to divulge the mechanisms behind the operation of Election Day at polling stations in Charlottesville, Virginia.

SHORTS

The eclectic range of shorts this year will make audiences experience a range of emotions from euphoria to sadness as they cover all the different strands in the programme.
Like A Heartbeat Drives You Mad (LOVE Strand) brings together stories of disapproving parents, difficult love and traumatic break-ups in this selection of films from all over the world, including Daisy Jacob’s THE FULL STORY, an animation about a father’s affair, family break-up and sibling rivalry.
Distilled Identities (DEBATE Strand) explores stories that question identity and belonging, including Kazik Radwanski’s SCAFFOLD, depicting the daily interactions of two Bosnian-Canadian builders reminiscing about home as they make repairs.
There is dark, dry and witty on-screen humour in short form with Gits and Shiggles (LAUGH Strand), including Kate Herron’s SMEAR, in which the awkward reality of a first-time smear test is made funny by one woman’s crushing femininity.
My Loneliness is Killing Me (DARE Strand) presents a selection of films asking existential questions about our place in the world at a time when we are more connected than ever, including SALT & SAUCE by Alia Ghafar, a film about battered sausages and trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing with your life.
The Thrill of the Chase (THRILL Strand) provides an adrenaline shot to put us on the edge of our seats. In OKSIJAN by Edward Watts, the true story of a seven-year old Afghan boy who finds himself trapped in a refrigerated truck with 14 other refugees as they are smuggled into the UK. In 1745 by Gordon Napier, two slave sisters escape into the Scottish wilderness in the year of the Jacobite rising.
There are alternative fictions and skewed realities in Strange World (CULT Strand), including Seth Ickerman’s TURBO KILLER, a sci-fi take on The Fast and the Furious and Kitty Faingold’s BODY WORLD, in which a fully grown new born woman is birthed into a hazy summer’s garden.
Heading for that Adult Crash (JOURNEY Strand) explores the stressful journey from childhood to adulthood, including Aneil Karia’s WORK about a 17 year old dancer attempting to contain her growing contempt towards an unjust world, and Patrick Bresnan’s THE RABBIT HUNT, in which an initiation rite is performed on boys on the cusp of manhood in Pahokee, Florida.
London Calling (JOURNEY Strand) spotlights some of the capital’s most exciting upcoming filmmakers including SAMIRA’S PARTY by Bijan Sheibani, in which the bonds between 14-year old Samad and his mum are put to the test on a trip to the supermarket, and FIGHTER by Bugsy Riverbank Steel, about a boxer with Down’s syndrome who fights for his right to get in the ring in the tense minutes before a boxing match.
Hoping. Fearing. Dreaming (CREATE Strand) examines lives yet to be lived including DELETE BEACH, a collaboration between Turner Prize-nominated Phil Collins and leading animation Studio 4°C.

LFF CONNECTS & SCREEEN TALKS

The acclaimed LFF Connects series returns with a programme of agenda-setting talks from the world’s leading artists and thinkers who are working at the intersection of film and other creative industries, while the Festival’s acclaimed Screen Talks series will welcome some of the most exciting international actors and directors in contemporary cinema to discuss their body of work.

LFF CONNECTS: JULIAN ROSEFELDT & CATE BLANCHETT

Artist Julian Rosefeldt is renowned for his visually opulent and meticulously choreographed moving image artworks. Inspired equally by art, film, architecture and the history of popular culture, he creates complex multi-screen installations that carry viewers into surreal, theatrical realms. Here he is joined by BFI Fellow Cate Blanchett to discuss their collaboration on the critically acclaimed, 13-channel video installation MANIFESTO (in the Festival’s Create strand), a deconstruction of art manifestos and a call for original thought, which has been adapted and reassembled as a 90-minute feature and receives its European Film Premiere at the Festival (Fri 6th October, NFT1).

LFF CONNECTS: NITIN SAWHNEY

Nitin Sawhney is firmly established as a world-class multi-hyphenate artist – producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ. He has composed for multiple forms, from film and videogames to dance and theatre. Highly prolific, his collaborations include some of the world’s leading orchestras and songwriters, including Paul McCartney, The London Symphony Orchestra, A R Rahman, Brian Eno, Sinéad O’Connor, Anoushka Shankar, Cirque Du Soleil and Akram Khan. Having composed the score for the Festival’s Opening Night Gala film BREATHE, he is currently collaborating with that film’s director Andy Serkis on the upcoming Jungle Book. (Sat 7th October, Vue7).

LFF CONNECTS: IAN MCEWAN

One of the greatest modern British writers, Ian McEwan made a name for himself writing dark and gripping novels, often notorious for their extreme themes. His work has also explored the impact of unusual situations on ordinary people and examined how social and political issues determine personal lives. With his latest adaptation ON CHESIL BEACH as this year’s Love Gala, we’re delighted to have McEwan join us to discuss the different disciplines of writing for the page and the screen and explore why his fiction continues to have such enduring appeal for big screen storytellers (Sun 8th October, Curzon Soho).

LFF CONNECTS: JOHAN KNATTRUP JENSEN

Based in Copenhagen, the progressive production studio Makropol strives to create transforming stories with tools from the new digital age. Their credo is: art can drive innovation and innovation can be art. Makropol employ virtual- reality technology to test the boundaries of film narrative. Building on traditional visual storytelling, they introduce new opportunities for audiences to interact with plotlines and characters, and one another. Johan Knattrup Jensen graduated from the progressive alternative film school Super16 in 2012 and is considered to be among the pioneers of cinematic virtual reality. Here, he leads a masterclass on Makropol’s most significant virtual reality projects, highlighting the discoveries and detailing the challenges that have determined their approach to cinema (Tues 10th October, NFT3).

LFF CONNECTS: DAVID FINCHER

One of the most revered filmmakers of a generation, Fincher began his career making pop promos with some of the world’s most influential artists, from Madonna to Michael Jackson. He has also directed a series of iconic ad campaigns for major international brands. As a feature filmmaker he has few peers, with a back catalogue including Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. MINDHUNTER (this year’s LFF Connects Special Presentation) marks Fincher’s return to the small screen after overseeing House of Cards for Netflix. Fincher returns to the BFI London Film Festival to discuss MINDHUNTER in the context of his career and the recent boom in long-form episodic drama (Tue 10th October, NFT1).

LFF CONNECTS: DEMIS HASSABIS

Demis Hassabis, the co-founder of renowned artificial intelligence (AI) lab DeepMind, is recognised as one of the world’s smartest thinkers in his field. DeepMind is on a scientific mission to push the boundaries of AI, developing programs that can learn to solve any complex problem. Greg Kohl’s documentary AlphaGo (in the LFF Create strand), details how DeepMind’s AlphaGo algorithm beat a world champion at the notoriously difficult Chinese board game Go. Demis Hassabis will discuss his journey from junior chess champion and videogame creator to world-renowned AI pioneer. He will also talk about the Go challenge and speculate on how AI will shape the future (Wed 11th October, NFT3).

LFF SCREEN TALK: TAKASHI MIIKE

The revered Japanese director achieved global prominence with his astonishingly graphic films Audition and Ichi the Killer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now with a hundred films under his belt, the prolific filmmaker has defied all attempts to pigeon-hole him as a niche director, being both a big-budget hit-maker and film festival darling. Best known for over-the-top violence and gore, his films cover the gamut of genres and styles including light-hearted children’s films (Zebraman and The Great Yokai War) period pieces (Sabu) subdued road movies (The Bird People in China) and farcical musical-comedy-horror films (The Happiness of the Katakuris). He joins us to talk about his life in film on the occasion of his 100th movie, which the Festival presents as this year’s Thrill Gala, the blood-drenched supernatural samurai BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL.
(Mon October 9th, Curzon Soho)

INDUSTRY & EDUCATION

The Festival offers a full benefits package for Industry delegates. This year’s industry programme, supported by the Mayor of London, via Film London, includes the LFF Connects strand which celebrates artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries; the talent development programme NET.WORK@LFF; Screen International’s UK Stars of Tomorrow 2017 and a host of other panels, talks and networking events.
This year’s Festival marks the second year of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI. At £50,000, the Bursary is the most significant of its kind in the UK film industry, supporting exceptional new and emerging writers, directors and writer/directors resident in the UK, and premiering their first or second feature in Official Selection at the BFI London Film Festival. The full industry programme will be announced in September.
The Festival again hosts Press and Industry screenings at Picturehouse Central, the Digital Viewing Library, a host of delegate hubs, discounts at partner venues and numerous networking opportunities with delegates and filmmakers. Visit www.bfi.org.uk/lff/professional-delegates for further details.

The BFI London Film Festival Education programme is supported by funding contributors The Film Music Foundation and BFI Film Academy, and event partners Into Film, London Music Masters and no.w.here. It includes a diverse range of morning screenings of films selected from the festival programme and special events for schools, students and young people, all featuring a wide range of film industry professionals, as well as the opportunity to take part in one of our three Young Juries for students, secondary and primary schools. For students in Higher Education, the Festival also offers a Student Accreditation scheme and the Film School Programme presented in partnership with the National Film & Television School, London Film Academy, London Film School and Birkbeck College.

BFI PLAYER

The BFI London Film Festival experience can be enjoyed UK-wide on BFI Player, the BFI’s VOD service, featuring a Festival digital channel showing regular red carpet action and film maker interviews. BFI London Film Festival content will be a key attraction in the range of services on BFI Player – at player.bfi.org.uk/

BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: AT A GLANCE

The 61st BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express®
4 – 15 October 2017
Tickets on sale:
 BFI Members: 10:00am 7 September
 Amex priority booking opens at 10.00am, 12 September
 General sale: 10:00am 14 September
For tickets, visit: www.bfi.org.uk/lff
Telephone Bookings: 020 7928 3232 between 10:00 – 20:30
In person: BFI Southbank Office: 10:00 – 20:30
…ENDS…

THE 61st BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL SPONSORS AND FUNDERS

We’re delighted that American Express® join us for their eighth year as Principal Sponsor and Preferred Payment Partner.
We welcome the Royal Bank of Canada as a Main Sponsor of the Festival for the second year and are thrilled to see the return of American Airlines as Main Sponsor and Official Airline. We’re delighted IWC Schaffhausen return as the Festival’s Official Time Partner.

We give heartfelt thanks to The May Fair Hotel, who return as the Festival’s Official Hotel and Renault, our Official Car Partner.

The BFI London Film Festival is made possible thanks to support from DCMS and The National Lottery and many other cultural institutions and organisations. We are also delighted to be supported directly by the Mayor of London through Film London as a funding contributor.
The remastering and new score of the BFI Archive Gala film, SHIRAZ, is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, alongside additional support from Matt Spick; PRS Foundation’s ‘The Open Fund’; the George Harrison family, on behalf of the Material World Foundation; and all donors to the BFI’s Film is Fragile fundraising campaign.

A huge thank you goes to the Festival’s generous in-kind Sponsors: returning photography sponsor Getty Images and cinema advertising partner Digital Cinema Media. Additionally, we would like to welcome DDA and Four Colman Getty and thank Exterion Media, Fever-Tree, Green & Black’s, Harkness Screens, The Hospital Club, The House of St Barnabas, Impact Marketing, The Library, Picture Production Company, Pink Pepper Gin, TV5 Monde and The Union for their continued support. We would also like to thank new sponsors Dalston Cola and Maltsmiths.

Cinema partners returning this year are Odeon, Vue, Curzon, Picturehouse, ICA, Empire Haymarket, Ciné Lumière, Prince Charles Cinema and Rich Mix.
We are delighted to welcome back returning Media Partners Evening Standard, Time Out, Empire, Sight & Sound, Screen International, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Little White Lies as well as valued Broadcast Partners BBC London and Magic FM for continuing to provide invaluable media support. We are also pleased to welcome VICE as a media partner this year.

The Festival would also like to give a huge thanks to returning sponsors Christie Digital, Dolby Laboratories, Inc. and Newman Displays.

Finally, the Festival would like to thank the many embassies and cultural institutes who support the Festival by helping to bring in filmmakers to present their work.

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