For 12 days from October 2 to 13, the 63rd BFI London Film Festival (LFF) will showcase 229 feature films including 41 documentaries, 7 animations, 13 archive restorations and 7 artists’ moving image features. The program also includes 116 short films.
78 countries are represented across short films and features, with 40% of all films directed or co-directed by women.
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.
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 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.
The American Express Gala is the European Premiere of KNIVES OUT, a fresh take on a classic ‘whodunnit’ written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper).
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 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 NEIGHBORHOOD, sees director Marielle Heller return to the festival after premiering her second feature Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year. 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 high-street 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 humor 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 color, 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.
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. While 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.
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
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
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
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
Sweet, passionate, tough – Love is a complex and many-splendored 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.
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 code-switching 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 state-sponsored famine, a visit that reputedly inspired George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
From laugh-out-loud comedy to dry and understated, Laugh celebrates humor 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 post-Arab Spring Tunis. In bittersweet comedy AXONE, director Nicholas Kharkongor tells the story of immigrants in Delhi who are attempting to organize 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.
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-paralyzed 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, dramatizing 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.
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 Mendonça 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 dramatize 2018’s astonishing rescue of the Wild Boars football team from Tham Luang cave. David Thewlis excels in GUEST OF HONOR, 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-fueled 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 award-winning Melbourne. Javidi’s thrilling second feature is as astutely crafted as it is suave and seductive.
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.
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 Aïnouz’s THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURÍDICE GUSMÃO, 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 unrecognizable 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.
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 utilizes 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 features films and videos by artists that revolutionize 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.
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 program of animated shorts for younger audiences which bring together eclectic, exciting and colorful 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!
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.