Magazine article Screen International

LFF Focus: Diversity, New Venues in the Spotlight

Magazine article Screen International

LFF Focus: Diversity, New Venues in the Spotlight

Article excerpt

Now celebrating its 60th year, the BFI London Film Festival (LFF), which runs from October 5-16, has firmly established itself as an influential global event, something that is evidenced by this year's extensive line-up. Audiences will take in 246 features and 144 shorts from 74 countries including, across the features alone, 14 world premieres, eight international premieres, 39 European premieres and 175 UK premieres.

Despite its international standing, the festival's dedication to supporting and showcasing UK film-making is clear in its choice of opening and closing films. Kicking offproceedings is the European premiere of Amma Asante's highly anticipated Belle follow-up A United Kingdom, which tells the true story of the scandalous 1940s romance between Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland (later Botswana), played by David Oyelowo, and London-born clerk Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). And, just a year after he brought JG Ballard adaptation High-Rise to festival audiences, Ben Wheatley's 1970s Boston-set gangland thriller Free Fire, also a European premiere, will bring things to a suitably bombastic close.

"What excites me about opening and closing with these films is that we are able to tell the story of the spectrum of British film-making, and to demonstrate just how diverse and exciting it is," says the festival's artistic director Clare Stewart. "But it's not about exclusively British storytelling. A United Kingdom has London and Botswana story elements and it feels very vitally international. That is also true of Free Fire which, even though it was shot in a big warehouse in Brighton, comes across entirely as a film that is set in the States in the 1970s. That's not to skip over the extraordinary diversity of the British work within the festival, with British productions in all our sections."

Stewart says that while programming such a plethora of British content was especially important in this anniversary year, equally essential was the need to satisfy a greatly enlarged festival audience, which will be catered for by a new, state-of-the-art 780-seat temporary cinema at Embankment Gardens. "Festival growth had hit a glass ceiling, given what has been happening with diminishing screen sizes in central London," she says. "So this exciting new venue was part of our vision for this year. It will become a home for our official competition screenings and strand galas, which frees up the Odeon Leicester Square for more headline galas than ever before, and we were able to expand the programme in that way."

HEADLINE HIGHLIGHTS

The expanded selection of headline galas - alongside A United Kingdom and Free Fire - includes Garth Davis's real-life drama Lion, Denis Villeneuve's lauded science-fiction film Arrival, Nate Parker's slavery epic The Birth Of A Nation, Damien Chazelle's Venice opener La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea, JA Bayona's A Monster Calls, Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, Mira Nair's Queen Of Katwe, Oliver Stone's Snowden - which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden - and Lone Scherfig's Their Finest.

There is also a full roster of galas for each of the nine programme strands, including Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Mirzya (Love gala), Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden (Dare gala), Bertrand Bonello's Nocturama (Debate gala), Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann (Laugh gala), Ben Younger's Bleed For This (Thrill gala), Andre Ovredal's The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (Cult gala), Jim Jarmusch's Paterson (Journey gala), Spike Lee's Chi-Raq (Sonic gala) and Mike Mitchell's Trolls (Family gala).

The festival will also screen a host of special presentations, including Andrea Arnold's American Honey, Ava DuVernay's documentary The 13th, Fiona Tan's The Ascent and Xavier Dolan's It's Only The End Of The World.

For the full line-up visit www.bfi.org.uk/lff.

BLACK STAR

Alongside its extensive public-facing programme, LFF will once again present a full roster of industry events leading with an agenda-setting symposium examining the on-screen representation of black actors in the UK and US. …

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