The 63rd BFI London Film Festival (LFF) in partnership with American Express announces its full programme today, 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.
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.
While we’re 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 launchpad 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.
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.
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 star-studded cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, 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 on 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 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 a 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 let’s 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 re-imagines 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.
Disillusioned 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 makes for 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.
Shonali Bose’s THE SKY IS PINK starring Priyanka Chopra and Farhaan Akhtar, will be screened as part of the ‘love’ strand.
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.
For more information on films, tickets and events check out LFF’s website here