The 61st BFI London Film Festival today announced its full program, featuring a diverse selection of 242 feature films including 46 documentaries, 6 animations, 14 archive restorations and 16 artists’ moving image features. The program also includes 128 short films, and 67 countries are represented across short film and features.
Alongside the Galas, Special Presentations and films in Competitions, the Festival will show a range of new cinema in sections aka strands titled Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Experimenta and Family. In 2017, the LFF debuts 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 will 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.
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
Daniel Kokotajlo, APOSTASY
Léa Mysius, AVA
Michael Pearce, BEAST (European Premiere)
Ofir Raul Graizer, THE CAKEMAKER
Gilles Coulier, CARGO
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
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
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)
The Festival program is organized in strands: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Family, Treasures and Experimenta.
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.
Other 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.
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.
This year’s Laugh Gala 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.
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 nearextinction 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 jawdropping 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.
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.
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 JeanPatrick Manchette’s influential 1971 crime novel and the result is a sun-drenched Western-tinged, crimecaper; 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.
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, thoughtprovoking 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.
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.
Showcasing films for the young, as well as the young at heart 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 program of animated shorts for younger audiences which bring together eclectic, exciting and colourful films from all around the globe.
The 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.
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 features films and videos by artists who transform our experience of seeing moving images.
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.