This October, the BFI’s London Film Festival returns – and here we breakdown the Gala showings and special presentations of future hits.
Oct. 4th – Opening Night Gala – Breathe (dir. Andy Serkis)
Serkis’ directorial debut sees Robin (Andrew Garfield) and Diana (Claire Foy) play lovers who must defy all odds in order to pave the way for change, when Robin contracts polio and is given only weeks to live. Based on the true story of producer Jonathan Cavendish’s parents, this powerful directorial debut from Serkis will more than likely prove a big hit during awards season.
Oct. 5th – Royal Bank of Canada Gala – Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)
Rees weaves together the threads of two very different families in Deep South, post-WWII, America – white farmers, the McAllans, and the Jacksons, black sharecroppers who lease land from the McAllans. However, the friendship of veterans Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson, ignites racial tension between the families.
Oct. 5th – Journey Gala – Wonderstruck (dir. Todd Haynes)
Based on Brian Selznick’s acclaimed YA novel, Haynes translates the story into an imaginative and playful picture, that sees Ben and Rose, two hearing-impaired teens who are desperately unhappy with their lives, and dream of much more. Each travel to New York on their own journey, and their paths intertwine, bring the dual narratives into one, in a wonderfully romantic story of two teens finding their way in life.
Winner of: Best Director (International Cinephile Society Awards)
Oct. 6th – BFI Flare Special Presentation – A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica) (dir. Sebastián Lelio)
When her lover Orlando dies suddenly, Marina is left in shock. Raw with grief, she navigates recounting the horror of the event to Orlando’s family, only to be met with a hostile response because of the fact she is a transgender woman. Suddenly, hers and Orlando’s love and cohabitation is not enough, as she must fight to protect the life she lives.
Winner of: Best Screenplay, Best Feature Film, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention (Berlin International Film Festival) & Best Latin American Film (San Sebastián International Film Festival)
Oct. 6th – Dare Gala – Amant Double (L’Amant Double) (dir. François Ozon)
Channelling Hitchcock and De Palma, Ozon’s erotic thriller sees former model Chloé plagued by undiagnosed stomach pains, that she’s told are psychosomatic, and when she consults handsome psychiatrist Paul they become entangled in a romantic relationship. However, when she discovers that Paul has a twin brother (also a psychiatrist), she experiences two very different kinds of treatment.
Oct. 6th – Laugh Gala – The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Dustin Hoffman plays the septuagenarian patriarch of the Meyerowitz family, a colourful bunch of screwed-up New Yorkers, and while his life hasn’t gone the way he expected, he’s succeeded in selling his children a fantastical version of his achievements. However, the usual dysfunction of his family is put on hold when Harold (Hoffman) receives a swift blow to the head, landing him in hospital – and the Meyerowitz’s have to take stock.
Winner of: Palm Dog Award (Cannes Film Festival)
Oct. 7th – American Express Gala – Battle of the Sexes (dir. Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton)
This playful comedy from the team behind Little Miss Sunshine, tells the story of legendary 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), that sees King hit back against her opponent as well as gender inequality that saw male and female players receive vastly differing prize money amounts, before she sets about establishing an all-female tournament.
Oct. 7th – Experimenta Special Presentation – Looking For Oum Kulthum (dir. Shirin Neshat)
Iranian artist Neshat, brings us a film-within-a-film about singer Oum Kulthum, a performer embraced by royalty and revolutionaries, and loved by ordinary Egyptians alike. Rare archive material and sumptuous recreations of Oum’s performances, build a layered story of history, politics and the struggle for artistic expression.
Oct. 7th – Create Gala – Redoubtable (Le Redoubtable) (dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
A biopic of French director Jean-Luc Godard, this film portrays his marriage to actor Anne Wiazemsky, in the midst of his artistic meltdown during national protest during 1968. Beginning with a light, comedic tone, Hazanavcius’ film darkens considerably throughout, seeing Godard lose touch with his audience and reject his wife in this philosophical and biographical roller coaster.
Oct. 8th – Thrill Gala – Blade of the Immortal (Mugen No Jûnin) (dir. Takashi Miike)
Based on the famous manga series by Hiroaki Samura, this thrilling film has the honour of being Miike’s 100th feature. Set in the Shogunate era, a samurai who’s cursed with immortal life teams up with a young girl to avenge her parents’ murder. This inventive thriller makes a wonderful companion piece to Miike’s earlier 13 Assassins.
Oct. 8th – Documentary Special Presentation – The Final Year (dir. Greg Barker)
This documentary documents the final year of the Obama administration, as the election looms. Observing the key players in foreign policy as they work to cement all they’ve done in the past two terms, Barker has gained unprecedented access to the central figures in the administration and what emerges is a portrait of those trying to secure their legacy for generations to come.
Oct. 8th – Love Gala – On Chesil Beach (dir. Dominic Cooke)
Based on Ian McEwan’s acclaimed short novel, On Chesil Beach follows Florence and Edward, a newly married couple on honeymoon who find themselves struggling to connect with each other physically. Cooke captures a heart-breaking, melancholic love story, supported by actors Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle, who express so much emotion, even without words.
Oct. 9th – The Mayor of London’s Gala – Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel, is just as luscious and beautiful as its Northern Italian setting. Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a musically gifted 17-year-old sees his idyllic summer break turned on its head with the arrival of American student Oliver (Armie Hammer) who is working with Elio’s father as part of a 6-week research trip. Oliver’s arrival sparks a deep desire in Elio, and James Ivory’s script delicately explores this sexual awakening, through classical art, poetry and music.
Winner of: People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature (Melbourne International Film Festival)
Oct. 10th – American Airlines Gala – The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo del Toro)
Drawing inspiration from classic 1950s sci-fi and the conspiracies surrounding Area 51, Guillermo del Toro weaves a wonderfully dark fairy tale that sees mute cleaner, Eliza (Sally Hawkins) enthralled by the mysterious underwater creature that the government is hiding in a tank in their secret facility. She then takes it upon herself to try and rescue this mysterious creature to which she has formed an inexplicable bond.
Winner of: CICT-UNESCO C. Smithers Foundation Award, Future Film Festival Digital Award, Best Soundtrack & Golden Lion for Best Film (Venice Film Festival)
Oct. 11th – The May Fair Hotel Gala – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (dir. Paul McGuigan)
Based on a true story, Annette Bening plays ailing actress Gloria Grahame, who reaches out to former lover, Liverpudlian actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) for help, when she collapses in a Lancaster hotel. Taking her home to his compassionate mother (Julie Walters), memories of their grand affairs come flooding back. Adapted from Turner’s memoir, this insightful romance explores the pair’s emotional and physical connection, with humour and pathos in equal measure.
Oct. 11th – Debate Gala – Foxtrot (dir. Samuel Maoz)
Moaz contemplates the life-altering nature of military life, pulling back from the claustrophobic nature of his previous film (set inside a tank), he adopts a wider persprective, examining the impact of the regimented nature of soldiers, from young people left to decide who can cross the border, to military personnel blindly following orders, in a look at modern Israeli life.
Winner of: 8 awards at the Awards of the Israeli Film Academy (including Best Film and Best Director), Arca CinemaGiovani Award for Best Film, SIGNIS Award – Honourable Mention & Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize (Venice Film Festival)
Oct. 13th – BFI Patrons’ Gala – Downsizing (dir. Alexander Payne)
Payne explores the future of humanity through this sci-fi satire which imagines a world where Norwegian scientists have discovered a method of shrinking people in order to limit humanity’s footprint and save the world. Matt Damon plays a beige, everyman, who wants to improve his life by shrinking down to live in the thriving mini-community – but his plans go awry when wife Kristen Wiig gets cold feet.
Oct. 13th – Festival Gala in Association With Time Out – The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker)
Baker takes inspiration from The Little Rascals for this madcap follow-up to 2015’s Tangerine. Following the theme of childhood innocence, we see six-year-old Moonee with a ceaseless sense of adventure, living in a candy-floss-coloured motel with her mother (who’s only just an adult herself) and other castaways, with utter disregard for the consequences of their juvenile hijinks.
Winner of: Truly Moving Picture Award (Heartland Film)
Oct. 14th – Family Gala – The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (Le Grand Mechant Renard et Autres Contes) (dir. Benjamin Renner, Patrick Imbert)
A charming trio of farmyard tales sees a world of animals with identity issues, who are unable to conform to the traditional roles, and are constantly trying to outsmart each other. These fast-talking, witty characters, will both warm your heart and make you laugh out loud.
Oct. 14th – Cult Gala – Thelma (dir. Joachim Trier)
A horror film may seem a departure for Trier, known for his astute human dramas, however this shocking film is every bit the intricate character study you would expect from the filmmaker. Thelma is a student living away from her family for the first time, but her life is turned upside down when she meets classmate Anja, who awakens a long-dormant supernatural power within her.
Winner of: Film Critics Award (Norwegian International Film Festival)
Oct. 14th – Special Presentation in Association with Sight & Sound – Zama (dir. Lucrecia Martel)
An adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 existential novel, this film charts the decline of a minor officer and Magistrate of the Spanish Crown. Don Diego de Zama is desperate to return to his family, however, his quest for a letter of recommendation from the Governor which would make this possible is endlessly postponed, and Zama finds himself increasingly side-lined by the Spanish-born élite.
Oct. 15th – Closing Night Gala – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (dir. Martin McDonagh)
McDonagh’s follow-up to Seven Psychopaths is a dark comedic drama, where Frances McDormand is a mother grieving for her murdered daughter. Frustrated that the case has gone quiet, she decides to provoke the police back to action by plastering a series of messages on three disused billboards outside her hometown, beginning a rapidly escalating, public feud between her and the Chief of Police. McDonagh’s audacious script, paired with a stellar cast is sure to make a incredibly funny, yet sobering film.
Winner of: People’s Choice Gala Award (Toronto International Film Festival) & Venice Film Festival’s Golden Osella for Best Screenplay.
You can find out more about the London Film Festival, including all the films that will be appearing, showings, and book tickets here.