DESTROYER Starring Nicole Kidman
DESTROYER Starring Nicole Kidman

Encompassing a mixture of oddball comedies, genre-bending kaleidoscopic dramas, entertaining crime capers, haunting ghost stories and nail-biting thrillers, the 62nd BFI London Film Festival revealed the ten contenders for the Official Competition, with 50% of the films from a female director or co-director.

The Festival will welcome as Jury President Academy Award-nominated director of ROOM (LFF Official Competition 2015), Lenny Abrahamson, whose long-awaited film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ horror novel THE LITTLE STRANGER will be released this September. For the first time, the winner of the Best Film will receive their Award in front of a public audience at a special screening on Saturday October 20th at Vue Leicester Square.

The 10 films in Official Competition are:

BIRDS OF PASSAGE sees co-directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent, LFF 2015) return to the Festival with their latest offering – a sprawling, spiritual exploration of family conflict and tribal warfare, laced with heady symbolism and surrealist flashes. Set during the marijuana bonanza, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia bear witness to the thrilling rise and fall of the indigenous Wayuu clan in remote Colombia. A mystical meditation on colonialism, tribalism and modernism.

Nicole Kidman is astonishing, and almost unrecognizable, in Karyn Kusama’s (The Invitation, LFF 2015) brooding thriller DESTROYER. Kidman plays Erin, a jaded police detective haunted by her past and still reeling from the trauma of her experience years later, who is forced to confront her demons in order to close the case that almost destroyed her. The film also stars Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany and Toby Kebbell.

Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders, LFF 2014) returns to the Festival with HAPPY AS LAZZARO. A delightfully singular time and genre-bending rumination on the fate of innocence when faced with corruption and greed. Set in rural Italy, this is the tale of Lazzaro, a beautiful peasant so sweet natured he is often mistaken for simple-minded. A magnificent blend of Italian class struggle, folk tales, biblical allegory and pop culture reference, Rohrwacher deservedly shared the Best Screenplay award at Cannes for this kaleidoscopic work.

The World Premiere of HAPPY NEW YEAR, COLIN BURSTEAD. is Ben Wheatley’s triumphant return to the Festival after Free Fire (LFF 2016). A poignantly funny and razor-sharp observation of English family dysfunction. Colin has rented a stately country home for his extended family’s New Year celebrations. He’s the centre of attention until his estranged brother David unexpectedly arrives, throwing the family dynamic far off orbit. Starring Joe Cole, Charles Dance, Mark Monero, Hayley Squires, Asim Chaudhry, Doon Mackichan, Bill Paterson, Neil Maskell and Sam Riley.

Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy, LFF 2014) returns to the Festival with IN FABRIC, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Gwendoline Christie. A haunting ghost story, laced with lashings of oddball humour and set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a strange department store, it follows the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences.

JOY, directed by Sudabeh Mortezai (whose debut feature Macondo competed for the LFF’s Sutherland Award in 2014), presents a vital and hugely affecting drama that tackles the vicious cycle of sex trafficking in modern Europe. It follows the life of Joy, a young Nigerian woman, who works the streets to pay off debts to her exploiter Madame, while supporting her family in Nigeria and hoping for a better life for her young daughter in Vienna.

Iconic director Zhang Yimou presents SHADOW, set during China’s Three Kingdom’s era (AD 220-280). Blood spills in this visually stunning feature, as a great king and his people will be expelled from their homeland, with jaw-dropping combat scenes. Director Zhang presents mind-blowing visual design that revolutionises the colour palette, using water, calligraphy and graphic interpretations of yin and yang.

Academy Award© winner László Nemes follows up his critically acclaimed debut Son of Saul (Official Competition nominee LFF 2015) with his feverishly ambitious second feature, SUNSET. Set in 1913, nearing the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and on the eve of the First World War. Írisz Leiter is a hat maker who returns to Budapest years after her parents, respected milliners, sent her to be fostered under mysterious circumstances. A fugue-like meditation on the end of an empire; the brilliantly willful Írisz is our witness to the flickering innocence of a Europe about to be plunged into hell.

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN, directed by David Lowery, stars Robert Redford, in what will be his final big screen performance after recently announcing retirement. A brilliantly entertaining crime caper, based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, the self-styled ‘Houdini’ whose many audacious prison breaks included an Alcatraz flight in a homemade kayak, and whose last robbery was committed when he was 79. Offering bittersweet reflections on time and age, THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is a testament to a free-spirit who steadfastly refused to go quietly. The film also stars Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG is a woozily gorgeous evocation of life on the fringe of society. Set during the summer of 1990, after Pinochet’s fall, democracy has returned to Chile. Three youngsters drive up to a woodland commune below the Andes, where they idle the summer away while their parents debate the future. In their isolated community, Sofia, Lucas and Clara face their first loves and fears while building up for New Year’s Eve. Youthful desire, ennui and mischief have rarely felt so tangible. The film is directed by Dominga Sotomayor.

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