The 65th BFI London Film Festival builds on the online only festival of 2020’s ‘year of the pandemic’ and continues to include the newer streams of augmented reality, and AI-driven Virtual Reality content in LFF Expanded, plus TV Series’ reflecting on the changes and developments in the way we consume content.
As always, there are loads of films to see, immerse yourself in and live through. Highlights include: Jeymes Samuels, The Harder They Fall, Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, and King Richard, based on Richard Williams drive to turn Venus and Serena into tennis superstars.
The festival is on from 6 to 17 October 2021, with films available in cinemas with screenings around the UK, available virtually, and with access to free events and films.
We’ve also picked out some superb SHORT FILMS which you can view for free on the BFI Player.
Here are our 2021 selection of films, LFF Expanded and Awards:
OPENING NIGHT GALA
The Harder They Fall: Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) has dedicated his life to hunting down members of the gang led by the vicious Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), who murdered his parents in front of him. Inspired by the real-life stories of African-American cowboys and featuring an all-star cast. London-born musician and filmmaker Jeymes Samuel’s feature debut is an explosive and stylish Western quite unlike any other.
Wed 6 | Thur 7 | Sun 10
Director: Jeymes Samuel. Screenwriter: Jeymes Samuel, Boaz Yakin. Producers: Shawn Carter, James Lassiter, Lawrence Bender, Jeymes Samuel. Cast: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, Regina King, Idris Elba.
CLOSING NIGHT GALA
The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shakespeare’s iconic and much adapted text, written on these shores over 400 years ago, gets a wonderfully fresh and singular reworking in Joel Coen’s first solo outing as a director. Coen dazzlingly adapts this Scottish play for the screen with Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington mesmeric as the couple whose political ambitions proved their fatal downfall.
Director-Screenwriter: Joel Coen. Producers: Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, Robert Graf. Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson.
King Richard: In the Compton suburbs of the early 1990s, Richard Williams has his sights firmly set on superstardom for his two young daughters, Venus and Serena. Will Smith delivers one of his best performances as the ambitious father of two sporting prodigies in this rousing, hugely enjoyable biopic.
Fri 15 | Sat 16
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green. Producers: Tim White, Trevor White, Will Smith. Screenwriter: Zach Baylin. Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal.
Fantasma Neon: An all-singing, all-dancing musical fantasy set in the busy urban world of Brazil’s takeaway food delivery bike community.
Director-Screenwriter: Leonardo Martinelli. Producers: Ayssa Yamaguti Norek, Rafael Teixeira, Leonardo Martinelli. Country: Brazil
Femme: In a tense late-night journey, Jordan encounters a drug-dealer in a dangerous den populated by a gang of men and stifling with toxic masculinity. (This film contains scenes of drug use and strong violence.)
Directors-Screenwriters: Sam H Freeman, Ng Choon Ping. Producers: Sam Ritzenberg, Hayley Williams, Rienkje Attoh. Country: UK
For Love: In this beautiful drama, a couple battle for a future where they can find a home and freedom that is not determined by where they’re from.
Director-Screenwriter: Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor. Producer: Emily Morgan. Country: UK
Precious Hair & Beauty: With observant commentary on the changing landscape of London communities, this is a witty and energetic snapshot of an odd day at a Black hair dressers.
Director-Screenwriter: John Ogunmuyiwa. Producers: Sophia Gibber, Tony Longe, Lene Bausager. Country: UK
Immersive Art and XR CompetitioN The Best Immersive Art and XR Award recognises the most innovative work from artists and creators who are boldly exploring the intersection of art, film and extended reality to fully immerse audiences in the moment.
(All part of the EXPANDED Strand: Step into a new dimension of storytelling with Immersive Art and Extended reality.)
6-17 Oct, 11am-9pm. Book a slot at 26 Leake Street, London SE1 7NN.
Container: This immersive film project makes us aware of how closely modern forms of economic enslavement compare with earlier forms that ‘civilised’ society claims to have cast aside.
Lead Artists: Meghna Singh, Simon Wood. Country: South Africa
Noah’s Raft: Acclaimed Nigerian filmmaker Joel Kachi Benson’s VR documentary shows how one person with a vision can transform a whole community by means of education.
Lead Artists: Joel Kachi Benson & Tal Michael Haring. Country: Nigeria.
Virtually There: Leon Oldstrong’s first VR film shines a light on a violent knife crime from multiple perspectives in an attempt to empathise with all parties involved.
Lead Artist: Leon Oldstrong. Production Company: Solaris2 Media. Country: UK
LOVE: Sweet, passionate, tough – love is a complex and many-splendoured thing.
Bantú Mama: A French-Cameroonian woman running from a drug deal gone wrong in the Dominican Republic finds shelter with three young siblings in this striking, lyrical film.
Sat 9 | Sun 10
Director: Ivan Herrera. Producers: Ivan Herrera, Clarisse Albrecht. Screenwriters: Clarisse Albrecht, Ivan Herrera. Cast: Clarisse Albrecht, Scarlet Reyes, Euris Javiel
Country: Dominican Republic
The Gravedigger’s Wife: With his deceptively simple but heartfelt feature debut, director Khadar Ahmed follows a man as he desperately tries to seek help for his ailing wife.
When a Farm Goes Aflame: This captivating, intimate and contemplative documentary that takes us from Denmark to Nigeria where is a superb and worthy continuation from his first feature a Portrait of a Lonely Farmer.
Wed 6 | Fri 8
Director: Jide Tom Akinleminu. Producer: Florian Schewe.
DEBATE: Riveting films that amplify, scrutinise, argue and surprise.
All These Sons: The second collaboration from Academy Award-nominees Bing Liu and Joshua Altman is an urgent document of two community groups in Chicago that empower young Black men.
ear for eye: At times furious, joyous and moving, debbie tucker green’s adaptation of her acclaimed play on racial injustice in the UK and USA is nothing short of mesmerising.
Sat 16 | Sun 17
Director-Screenwriter: debbie tucker green. Producer: Fiona Lamptey. Cast: Lashana Lynch, Carmen Munroe, Tosin Cole
The Neutral Ground: In this bitingly satirical and deeply personal documentary, CJ Hunt traces the troubled history of Confederate monuments in America.
Thu 14 | Fri 15
Director: CJ Hunt. Producer: Darcy McKinnon. Screenwriters: CJ Hunt, Jane Geisler, James Hamilton
LAUGH: From mega LOLZ through romcom to dry and understated – humour in all its forms.
Queen of Glory: In Nana Mensah’s self-assured and charming comedy, a Ghanaian-American woman’s life is thrown into disarray when she inherits her mother’s Christian bookshop.
Sat 9 | Sun 10
Director-Screenwriter: Nana Mensah. Cast: Nana Mensah, Meeko Gattuso, Oberon K A Adjepong.
DARE: In-your-face and arresting – stories that take you out of your comfort zone.
La Mif: A raw, in-your-face drama that offers a glimpse of life within a residential care home for at-risk teenage girls.
Sun 10 | Mon 11
Director-Producer-Screenwriter: Fred Baillif. Cast: Claudia Grob, Amélie Tonsi, Anaïs Uldry, Amandine Golay, Kassia Da Costa, Joyce Ndayisenga, Charlie Areddy, Sara Tulu.
THRILL: Nerve-shredders that will get your adrenalin pumping and keep you on the edge of your seat.
Boiling Point: An emotionally scarred London chef struggles to keep it together in this formally extraordinary and beautifully acted single-take thriller.
Mon 11 | Tue 12 | Sun 17
Director: Philip Barantini. Producers: Bart Ruspoli, Hester Ruoff. Screenwriters: Philip Barantini, James Cummings. Cast: Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Jason Flemyng.
CULT: From the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror.
Juju Stories: Three Nigerian filmmakers come together for a thrilling portmanteau film that presents an alternative Lagos through the modern interpretation of folk tales.
Fri 15 | Sat 16
Directors-Screenwriters: Abba T Makama, C J ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Michael Omonua. Producer: Oge Obasi. Cast: Paul Utomi, Don Ekwuazi, Nengi Adoki
Countries: Nigeria, France
JOURNEY: Whether it’s the voyage or the destination, these films transport you and shift your perspective.
Citizen Ashe: The ultimate origin story, Arthur Ashe was not only a pioneer within the world of tennis but a revolutionary social activist for many global causes.
Sun 10 | Mon 11
Directors: Rex Miller, Sam Pollard. Producers: Beth Hubbard, Anna Godas, Rex Miller, Steven Cantor, Jamie Schutz, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe
Country: UK, USA
Freda: Gessica Généus’s debut follows a strong-willed young woman struggling to decide whether to leave the violence of Haiti for the chance of a better life.
Wed 6 | Thu 7
Director: Gessica Généus. Producer: Jean-Marie Gigon. Cast: Néhémie Bastien, Jean Jean, Fabiola Rémy
Passing: In Rebecca Hall’s exquisite directorial debut, two childhood friends are reunited as adults in 1920s New York, with one of them now passing as white.
Sun 10 | Tue 12
Director-Screenwriter: Rebecca Hall. Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Margot Hand, Rebecca Hall. Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland.
CREATE: Celebrating artistic expression and electricity of the creative process.
8 Bar – The Evolution of Grime: This intriguing and expansive documentary looks at the complex history and impact of Grime, tracking its enormous influence and resonance on modern UK music and culture.
Sat 16 | Sun 17
Director: Ewen Spencer. Producers: Aleksandra Bilic, Jamie Clark, David Upshal
We (Nous): An inquisitive and deeply revealing journey on the tracks of the RER B, a suburban train crossing Paris from North to South.
Sat 9 | Sun 10
Director: Alice Diop. Producers: Sophie Salbot. Cast: Ismael Soumaïla Sissoko, Bamba Sibi, N’Deye Sighane Diop
EXPERIMENTA: Films by artists that revolutionise and reshape our vision of cinema.
Lago Gatún: Kevin Jerome Everson’s latest feature-length film, shot in black-and-white 16mm, is a minimalist odyssey that traverses the Panama Canal, between the Earth’s two great oceans, where its American engineers imposed US segregation laws on the canal’s Jamaican migrant workforce.
Director: Kevin Jerome Everson. Producers: Madeleine Molyneaux, Kevin Jerome Everson.
The I and S of Lives: In Black Lives Matter Plaza, Washington DC, the camera follows a lone skater’s graceful moves. His clothes match the colours of the mural he skates on.
Director: Kevin Jerome Everson. Producers: Kevin Jerome Everson, Madeleine Molyneaux
TREASURES: Revived and restored from the world’s archives.
Sambizanga: A riveting neorealist testimony to Angola’s anti-colonialist struggle, not screened there until after independence, this is an unforgettable revolutionary film. Set in the weeks leading up to the guerrilla war for independence, Sambizanga focuses on the plight of a young couple.
Tue 12 | The 14
Director: Sarah Maldoror. Screenwriters: Mario de Andrade, Sarah Maldoror. Cast: Elisa Andrade, Domingos de Oliveira, Jean M’Vondo.
It’s arrived! The 63rd BFI London Film Festival runs from the 2-13 October 2019, with a bumper selection of films to choose from around the world, including: Brazil, Cameroon, Congo, France, Haiti, Italy, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, UK, USA, Vietnam, and Zambia.
Here is our selection of 42 feature films and 4 events. Highlights include Mati Diop‘s Atlantics, Burning Cane with Wendell Pierce, Alfre Woodard in Clemency, the long awaited, Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo. Michael Jordan will be in attendance giving a screen talk, and starring in Just Mercy, and Lupita Nyong’o stars in Little Monsters. We’re also looking forward to UK films, Rocks and White Riot.
Atlantics(Atlantique) Friday 04 October 2019 | 18:00 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 20:40 | Cine Lumiere Monday 07 October 2019 | 12:10 | BFI Southbank, NFT1
Ada and Souleiman are in love. But Souleiman is 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 after all.
Dir Mati Diop; With Mama Sané, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré France-Senegal-Belgium, 2019
A young woman named Teresa travels home for the funeral of her grandmother, who was the matriarch of Bacurau, a village that happily embraces its misfits, mixed-heritage outsiders, whores, hippies and queers. On arrival, Teresa discovers that the dusty little town 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 (quite literally, it turns out) to rich European and American interests.
Burning Cane Friday 11 October 2019 | 20:50 | BFI Southbank, NFT3 Saturday 12 October 2019 | 16:30 | Vue West End, Screen 6
Helen stalks through her farm with a cleaver in one hand, cigarette in the other, running through the various treatments she’s tried for her dog’s mange. Her recently unemployed son Daniel pushes beer and whiskey on his own child. And the local preacher (Wendell Pierce) remains in denial about the malice forming an increasingly powerful undertow to his sermons. As alcohol and melancholy suffuse this Louisiana family and their pastor, a woozy portrait emerges – one of characters living in lows they cannot transcend.
Dir-Scr Phillip Youmans; With Wendell Pierce, Karen Kaia Livers, Dominique McClellan USA 2019
Burning Night(Breve Miragem de Sol) Thursday 03 October 2019 | 18:20 | BFI Southbank, NFT3 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 20:30 | Vue West End, Screen 4
Down on his luck and recently divorced, Paulo (Boliveira) has begun driving a cab around Rio, hoping he’ll make enough to send his ex money to support their ten-year-old son. He mostly works nights, so in addition to his encounters with a colourful variety of customers, colleagues, cops and others, he must cope with loneliness, fatigue and new faces in his life.
Dir Eryk Rocha; With Fabricio Boliveira, Bárbara Colen, Cadu N Jay Brazil-France-Argentina 2019
Clemency Wednesday 02 October 2019 | 18:00 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Friday 04 October 2019 | 15:00 | ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3 Friday 11 October 2019 | 20:30 | ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Clemency opens with experienced prison warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) overseeing a lethal injection that goes agonisingly wrong. Botching ‘the procedure’ heightens scrutiny over her next execution, of convicted cop killer Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge) who maintains his innocence. Woodard delivers a stunning performance as methodical authority figure Bernadine, whose necessary professionalism has made her emotionally unavailable to husband Jonathan (The Wire’s Wendell Pierce). No amount of after-work drinking will make the nightmares stop.
Dir-Scr Chinonye Chukwu; With Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce USA, 2018
Desrances Thursday 03 October 2019 | 18:10 | Vue West End, Screen 4 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 12:20 | Vue West End, Screen 4
After the brutal massacre of his family in Haiti, Francis Desrances resettles in the Ivory Coast. Years later Francis, his wife Aissey and 12-year-old daughter Haila await the birth of a son, who to Francis’ excitement and Haila’s irritation is immediately regarded as the worthy heir to the Desrances name. As the birth looms, civil war erupts in Abidjan and amidst the melee Aissey goes missing. Haila courageously steps forward in ways that challenge her father’s notion of what constitutes a rightful heir.
Dir-Scr Apolline Traoré; With Jimmy Jean-Louis, Naomi Nemlin, Evelyne Ily Burkina Faso, 2019
Give Me Liberty Friday 11 October 2019 | 18:00 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Sunday 13 October 2019 | 19:45 | BFI Southbank, NFT3
American-Russian Vic drives a van transporting disabled passengers around Milwaukee. He needs this job and today he’s running dangerously late. Tracy, an African-American woman with ALS, is not impressed. But there’s also Vic’s eccentric Russian grandfather’s neighbours, who all need a lift to a funeral, plus a livewire dude called Dima, who claims to be the deceased’s nephew and is coming along for the ride. From these chaotic beginnings, the film zooms through a day and a night, creating a turbulent tapestry of working-class lives that touches on issues of race, disability and poverty in America’s most segregated city.
Dir Kirill Mikhanovsky; With Chris Galust, Lauren ‘Lolo’ Spencer, Maksim Stoyanov USA, 2019
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman nonetheless escaped the South of the US and travelled alone over 100 miles on foot to the first free state, Philadelphia. But finding it impossible to enjoy her freedom while others were enslaved, she returned as a fugitive over 13 times to dangerous Confederate states, helping more than 70 people escape in the years before the Civil War.
Dir Kasi Lemmons; With Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Leslie Odom Jr USA, 2019
Just Mercy Saturday 05 October 2019 | 14:45 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 14:15 | ODEON Luxe Leicester Square
Fresh from Harvard Law School, fledgling attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) defies the wishes of his parents, who are concerned about the notoriously racist South, when he ventures to Alabama to open a law practice to support death row inmates routinely denied proper legal counsel. Meeting with a variety of prisoners, Stevenson soon encounters Walter “Johnny D” McMillan (Foxx), a black man accused of the brutal murder of a white teenage girl, an allegation he vehemently denies, with numerous factors clearly supporting innocence. Despite Johnny D’s scepticism that he will be afforded due diligence by a corrupt system, Stevenson hires local advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), and mounts an urgent case for a retrial, uncovering a chain of injustices and crucial oversights as they search for the truth.
Dir Destin Daniel Cretton; With Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, O’Shea Jackson Jr USA, 2019
First Feature Competition
The Last Black Man in San Francisco Friday 04 October 2019 | 18:00 | Curzon Mayfair Cinema, Screen 1 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 15:15 | ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3 Friday 11 October 2019 | 20:30 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) dreams of reclaiming the beautiful late 19th century home his grandfather built in the heart of the city, before harder times and changing demographics forced his family out. He and best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) scheme to make this happen while Jimmie annoys the sitting tenants with guerrilla gardening on the beloved Fillmore house. A skateboarder and dreamy, suit-wearing playwright, the pair are at odds with the tough guys around the neighbourhood, and spend their time working to deliver Jimmie’s dream while living with Mont’s grandfather (Danny Glover).
Dir Joe Talbot; With Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan USA, 2019
Little Monsters Saturday 05 October 2019 | 18:00 | BFI Southbank, NFT1 Monday 07 October 2019 | 15:30 | Vue West End, Screen 5 Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 18:15 | ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Dave is at a crossroads in his life. Recently dumped and with his aspirations of heavy metal stardom fading away, the eternal man-child is forced to crash on his sister’s sofa. However, things look up when he meets the effervescent Miss Caroline, his 5-year-old nephew’s favourite teacher. Desperate to spend time with the object of his affection, Dave signs up to chaperone a school trip to the local petting zoo. But when the neighbouring military base accidentally unleashes a hoard of zombies upon the unsuspecting farmyard, Dave, Miss Caroline and their miniature posse must join forces to keep the flesh-eating army at bay.
Dir-Scr Abe Forsythe; With Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Alexander England Australia-USA-UK, 2019
The Lost Okoroshi Thursday 03 October 2019 | 20:40 | Vue West End, Screen 4 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 15:30 | ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Fed up with the soulless city and how its dwellers have lost touch with their ancestral traditions, Raymond Obinwa yearns for reconnection between man, spirit and traditional society. He awakens one morning to find he has transformed into a traditional Igbo masquerade Okoroshi. In his new form, Raymond/Okoroshi sets off on a quest to find a new home in the city. Along the way, he encounters brassy sex-worker Doris, street hustler Willy-Willy – who is convinced of Okoroshi’s earning potential – and witnesses the idle chit-chat of conspicuous pseudo-spiritual authority the IPSSHRR (The Igbo People’s Secret Society for Heritage, Restoration and Reclamation).
Dir-Prod Abba Makama; With Seun Ajayi, Judith Audu, Tope Tedela Nigeria, 2019
Luce Sunday 06 October 2019 | 17:30 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Sunday 06 October 2019 | 18:00 | Vue West End, Screen 5 Monday 07 October 2019 | 20:30 | ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr) is a former refugee, a child soldier from a war-torn African country. Seemingly recovered from his childhood trauma, he now lives in his adoptive country as the son of white liberal middle-class parents (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts). His high school’s brightest hope – a fiercely intelligent debater and star athlete – Luce seems destined to achieve great things. But after he chooses Franz Fanon as an assignment to deliver a paper in the voice of a historical figure, Luce’s English teacher (Octavia Spencer) becomes suspicious that something darker may lurk beneath his highly-controlled exterior.
Dir Julius Onah; With Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr USA, 2019
The Man Who Cuts Tattoos Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 18:30 | BFI Southbank, NFT2 Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 18:40 | Vue West End, Screen 6
To mark the beginning of adulthood and prepare for marriage, a young girl in an Edo village must undergo a painful rite of passage through scarification. The agony she endures for a loving union finds her questioning the process. Sometime in the future, unencumbered by the traditions that exist in present day Lagos, Michelle questions her tumultuous relationship with boyfriend America. Having recently found out she’s pregnant, with America pushing her towards an abortion and with her job on the line, Michelle also considers the sacrifices that are made for love.
Dir-Scr Michael Omonua; With Valerie Dish, Omowunmi Dada, Duke Elvis Nigeria, 2019
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool Thursday 10 October 2019 | 20:30 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1 Saturday 12 October 2019 | 12:30 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
This detailed, textured chronology offers something for all, from jazz newbies to viewers who’ve long been drowning in the ocean of genre-expanding music that poured from the musician’s magically muted trumpet. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool swings through five decades of sonic innovation: from hard bop to heavenly orchestrations, the ambient acoustics of Kind of Blue to the funky fusion of Bitches Brew. It’s a treasure trove of electrifying archive and authoritative interviewees (including several collaborators and ex-lovers), which smartly deploys extracts from Miles’s searing autobiography. The film also explores his impact on black cultural identity and doesn’t flinch from discussing the violent, drug-fuelled ravages of a troubled and troubling icon.
Dir Stanley Nelson USA-UK, 2019
Muna Moto Saturday 12 October 2019 | 15:10 | BFI Southbank, NFT3 Sunday 13 October 2019 | 20:30 | BFI Southbank, Studio
Ngando (David Endéné) and Ndomé (Arlette Din Belle) are deeply in love. Ngando wishes to marry Ndomé. But he is poor and cannot afford a dowry, making him unable to fulfil the tradition. And according to the village tradition, she must take a husband. After a meeting, the villagers decide that Ndomé should marry Ngando’s childless uncle, Mbongo (Philippe Abia), who already has three wives. In despair, Ngando decides to something unthinkable on the day of the wedding.
Dir-Scr Jean-Pierre Dikongué-Pipa; With Philippe Abia, Arlette Din Bell, David Endéné Cameroon, 1975
My Friend Fela Friday 04 October 2019 | 20:45 | BFI Southbank, NFT2 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 12:45 | BFI Southbank, NFT2 Sunday 06 October 2019 | 14:45 | Vue West End, Screen 4
Fela Kuti inspired a generation of Africans and African Americans with his own unique style of music, known as Afrobeat. A combination of Afropop, jazz, highlife, juju and funk, it was infused with social and political criticism of the military dictatorship in Nigeria. With an expertly assembled mix of interviews and archive footage, director Joel Zito Araújo presents a complex portrait of an enigmatic and often troubled man.
The Living and the Dead Ensemble, an artist collective from Haiti, France and the UK, bring an embodied and contemporary perspective to the history of the only uprising of enslaved peoples that led to the creation of a state. Shot in Haiti and France, through complex conversations and performances, Ouvertures considers ideas around language and translation as well as major themes of colonialism, power, cultural memory, generational trauma, knowledge and resistance.
Dir Louis Henderson, Olivier Marboeuf with The Living and The Dead Ensemble France-Haiti-UK, 2019
Premature Saturday 05 October 2019 | 21:00 | Vue West End, Screen 6 Monday 07 October 2019 | 15:45 | Vue West End, Screen 4
Temperatures are rising in Harlem as Ayanna (Zora Howard) prepares to depart for a college writing programme. Then Isaiah appears on the scene. Echoing John Singleton’s Poetic Justice, Ayanna’s arresting poetry charts the rocky terrain of first love. If the couple find themselves tethered to the reality of urban life, at incisive moments they manage to soar within the love-scape of their own making.
Dir Rashaad Ernesto Green; With Zora Howard, Joshua Boone USA, 2019
Real Sunday 06 October 2019 | 18:15 | Vue West End, Screen 6 Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 15:45 | ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Young couple Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and Kyle (Omoshaybi) struggle to manage personal hardship at the start of their blossoming relationship. Jamie leads the charge with quiet tenacity as a mother determined to create a stable environment for her young son. In tandem, Kyle puts the need to battle his own demons on hold and is willing to beg, steal or borrow to impress his new love.
Dir-Prod-Scr Aki Omoshaybi; With Aki Omoshaybi, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Karen Bryson UK, 2019
Everyone’s an amateur archivist these days, but few match the pre-internet dedication of public access TV producer Marion Stokes. Philadelphia’s visionary hoarder recorded 70,000 VHS tapes filled with news broadcasts, from 1979’s Iranian hostage crisis to the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project shows how this librarian, computer collector and Star Trek-loving civil rights activist quickly perceived the ways 24-hour cable television was rewiring viewers’ minds.
Olushola Joy Omotoso, ‘Rocks’ to her mates, is a London teenager with ordinary teenage cares; hanging with her crew and helping to look after her little brother keeps her grounded. But on returning from an ordinary day at secondary school, she discovers her mother isn’t home. There’s just a little cash and an apology note. Fearing that she and her brother will be separated if the authorities find out, Rocks decides not to tell anyone and instead copes with her brother alone.
Dir Sarah Gavron; With Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Ruby Stokes UK, 2019
Say Amen, Somebody Monday 07 October 2019 | 18:15 | BFI Southbank, NFT2 Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 20:30 | BFI Southbank, Studio
In this masterful and beautifully restored observational music documentary, George T Nierenberg captures show-stopping musical performances interwoven with fascinating intimate, behind-the-scenes personal moments. With unrivalled access, the film pays tribute to the lives and careers of the movement’s luminaries. These include ‘Mother’ Willie Mae Ford Smith, gospel’s diva and earth mother – a skilful singer and preacher who championed equality for women – and ‘Professor’ Thomas A Dorsey, a blues player who turned to the church and also became a prolific composer, songbook publisher and concert organiser. Spotlighting the work of other artists such as Sallie Martin, the Barrett Sisters and the O’Neal Twins, this extraordinarily infectious and deeply emotional concert film is a truly uplifting experience.
Dir George T Nierenberg USA, 1982
Staff Only(El viatge de la Marta) Friday 04 October 2019 | 18:10 | Cine Lumiere Sunday 06 October 2019 | 17:45 | Vue West End, Screen 4
Is it possible to avoid being problematic when you’re a middle-class white tourist prone to sunburn and entitlement? It’s what Spanish teenager Marta (a quietly intense Elena Andrada) wonders as she eye-rolls her way through a painful Christmas holiday in Senegal, staying with her estranged dad and annoying little brother in a resort full of white sunburnt pensioners. Turning her nose up at her dad’s timetable of culturally-appropriative tourism, she rejects family bonding time, choosing instead to make some local alliances, first with the hotel maid Aissatou and then a romance with aspiring filmmaker Khouma.
Dir Neus Ballús; With Elena Andrada, Sergi López, Diomaye A.Ngom Spain-France, 2019
Synchronic Sunday 06 October 2019 | 20:50 | Empire Haymarket, Screen 1 Monday 07 October 2019 | 15:30 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 12:50 | Vue West End, Screen 4
Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan star as a pair of paramedics traversing the nocturnal streets of New Orleans. More than just colleagues, the duo enjoy a long-standing friendship, supporting each other through the difficulties they face in their increasingly complicated personal lives. But when they encounter a series of bizarre deaths which all appear to lead back to a new designer drug called Synchronic, the two men find their bond put to the test as their worlds are unexpectedly thrown into chaos.
Dir Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson; With Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton USA, 2019
Talking About Trees Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 20:45 | ICA Cinema, Screen 1 Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 15:40 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Suliman and three further members of the ‘Sudanese Film Club’ have decided to revive an old cinema. They are united not only by their love of cinema and their passionate desire to restore old film stock and draw attention to Sudanese film history once more, but also by the fact that they have all enjoyed a film education in exile. Tirelessly, they try to get the cinema’s owners on their side and make the place operational again, but repeatedly find themselves up against considerable resistance. In the meantime, they sit together and talk about the past – including their experiences of persecution and even torture as oppositional artists. They also read out old letters written while in exile and dream of a Sudan in which art and intellectual thought can be free. ‘We are smarter than them, but not as strong,’ is how they unanimously summarise their situation.
The Valley Sunday 06 October 2019 | 20:45 | Vue West End, Screen 6 Monday 07 October 2019 | 13:15 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Sometimes help comes from the most unexpected places. The valleys of the French Alps experienced enforced displacement during Second World War, so perhaps it’s no surprise that many residents feel moved to help refugees whose homes have also become battlefields. In a climate of mistrust and rising prejudice, it’s refreshing to witness everyday people get savvy about the laws of these lands, especially when political engagement is fickle. As one man quips, ‘Increase the retirement age by six months and you’ll have three million people protesting, but nothing for this’.
In Pedro Costa’s 2014 drama Horse Money, Vitalina Varela made a memorable appearance, effectively playing herself. In this follow-up – less a sequel than a deeper pursuit of its themes and motifs – Varela steps into the foreground as a woman who, after years waiting for a plane ticket, arrives in Portugal three days after her husband’s funeral. A mesmerising contemplation of race, grief and exile…
Dir Pedro Costa; With Vitalina Varela, Manuel Tavares Almeida, Francisco Brito Portugal 2019
Walking with Shadows Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 20:45 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1 Thursday 10 October 2019 | 20:40 | Vue West End, Screen 4
Ebele Njoko (Ozzy Agu) has been running all his life. A search for acceptance and love from his family has led him to recreate himself as Adrian – respected father, husband and brother. In coming to terms with his sexuality, Adrian is forced to choose between a compromised existence and the life that he would like to lead. When his mask is cruelly stripped away, Adrian’s world rapidly unravels.
Waves Saturday 12 October 2019 | 21:15 | ODEON Luxe Leicester Square Sunday 13 October 2019 | 20:30 | Vue West End, Screen 6
Popular high-school athlete Tyler (an astonishing Kelvin Harrison Jr. who also shines in Luce) lives a seemingly privileged life. An all-star wrestler with a loving girlfriend and a supportive, affluent family, he spends his days training, and his nights partying. But beneath the fragile veneer of perfection, cracks are beginning to show. Under constant scrutiny from his overbearing father, ignoring the reality of a potentially serious shoulder injury and reeling from an unexpected development in his romantic relationship, Tyler’s world looks set to implode. As the pressures around him steadily mount, a series of events are put in motion which threaten not only Tyler’s happiness, but also the lives of the people he loves the most.
Dir-Scr Trey Edward Shults; With Kelvin Harrison Jr, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell USA 2019
White Riot Saturday 05 October 2019 | 20:50 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1 Sunday 06 October 2019 | 18:15 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
Rock Against Racism (RAR) was formed in 1976, prompted by ‘music’s biggest colonialist’ Eric Clapton and his support of racist MP Enoch Powell. White Riot blends fresh interviews with queasy archive footage to recreate a hostile environment of anti-immigrant hysteria and National Front marches. As neo-Nazis recruited the nation’s youth, RAR’s multicultural punk and reggae gigs provided rallying points for resistance. As founder Red Saunders explains: ‘We peeled away the Union Jack to reveal the swastika’. The campaign grew from Hoxton fanzine roots to 1978’s huge antifascist carnival in Victoria Park, featuring X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse and of course The Clash, whose rock star charisma and gale-force conviction took RAR’s message to the masses.
Dir Rubika Shah; With Red Saunders, Roger Huddle, Kate Webb UK 2019
Zombi Child Sunday 06 October 2019 | 18:20 | Empire Haymarket, Screen 1 Monday 07 October 2019 | 20:40 | Cine Lumiere Friday 11 October 2019 | 15:30 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
Haiti, 1962. A man is resurrected from the dead. Forced to work on a sugar cane plantation, Clairvius Narcisse is trapped in perpetual night. Fast forward to contemporary Paris. Haitian teen Mélissa is the new girl at a prestigious school, where cerebral lectures on liberalism are de rigeur. Mélissa makes her first friend in dreamer Fanny when they discover a shared passion for Stephen King. Fanny invites Mélissa to join a secret ‘literary sorority’. But while presentations on Rihanna keep their story firmly 21st-century, something more ancient is at play, with Mélissa harbouring an incendiary family secret.
Dir-Scr Bertrand Bonello; With Louise Labèque, Wislanda Louimat, Katiana Milfort France 2019
Other films and events of interest:
Cold Case Hammarskjöld Friday 04 October 2019 | 18:00 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1 Saturday 05 October 2019 | 17:50 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Mads Brügger’s investigation, attempts to solve the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjöld, who served as the second Secretary General of the United Nations. In 1961, while attempting to negotiate a ceasefire in the Congo, his plane crashed in Zambia, killing all on board. The reason for the crash is a mystery. A number of conspiracy theories exist, particularly as Hammarskjöld was outspoken in his opposition to colonialism and appeared on the black list of many powerful mining companies.
Dir-Scr Mads Brügger; With Göran Björkdahl, Mads Brügger Denmark-Norway-Sweden-Belgium, 2019
County Lines Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 18:30 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 20:45 | BFI Southbank, NFT2 Sunday 13 October 2019 | 20:30 | Vue West End, Screen 7
The term ‘county lines’ describes the practice of using children to traffic drugs from cities to coastal towns and rural areas, an underreported fact of modern British life. Inspired by the stories he heard while mentoring kids at an East London pupil referral unit, writer-director Henry Blake’s powerful feature debut boasts a compelling central performance by Conrad Khan as 14-year-old Tyler, whose mum Toni (Ashley Madekwe) is struggling to provide for him and his sister. Excluded from school, Tyler becomes a train-bound narcotics courier for local criminal Simon.
Dir-Scr Henry Blake; With Conrad Khan, Ashley Madekwe, Harris Dickinson UK, 2019
Divine Love(Divino amor) Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 20:45 | Empire Haymarket, Screen 1 Thursday 10 October 2019 | 18:10 | Vue West End, Screen 4 Friday 11 October 2019 | 15:30 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Brazil, 2027. Joana is a civil servant working with clients seeking a divorce. A devout believer in the institution of marriage, she does what she can to persuade quarrelling couples to give it another go, turning to the unorthodox methods of her religious group Divino Amor. But things are not plain sailing at home. Try as they may, Joana and her husband Danilo remain childless, despite their staunch efforts to conceive. Becoming increasingly reliant on her local 24-hour drive-through priest service, Joana is fast giving up hope, until one day a miracle happens.
Dir Gabriel Mascaro; With Dia Praes, Julio Machado Brazil-Uruguay-Chile-Denmark-Norway-Sweden, 2019
Knives Out Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 19:30 | ODEON Luxe Leicester Square Tuesday 08 October 2019 | 20:30 | Embankment Garden Cinema Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 11:30 | Embankment Garden Cinema Friday 11 October 2019 | 11:00 | ODEON Luxe Leicester Square Sunday 13 October 2019 | 14:45 | Empire Haymarket, Screen 1
Murder mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a veritable one-man crime-fiction industry and his adult children – and their children – have been living off him for years. When he turns up dead, the apparent victim of a murder, it seems that no-one has a motive for killing the golden goose. At least, that’s what the detectives assigned to the case think. But Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) – the debonair ‘Kentucky-fried’ private investigator mysteriously hired by an anonymous source – has other ideas. With a superb cast at their arch best (Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford, Ana de Armas and Don Johnson, to name a few), this is impeccably written and designed, full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish.
Dir-Scr Rian Johnson; With Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfield USA, 2019
Moffie Thursday 10 October 2019 | 20:40 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Thursday 10 October 2019 | 21:10 | Vue West End, Screen 5 Friday 11 October 2019 | 12:30 | Vue West End, Screen 7 Friday 11 October 2019 | 13:00 | Vue West End, Screen 5
1981, South Africa. Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) has long known he is different, that there is something shameful and unacceptable in him that must stay hidden, denied even. But South Africa’s minority government are embroiled in conflict at the Angolian border and all white young men over 16 must serve two years of compulsory military service to defend the Apartheid regime and its culture of toxic racist machismo. The ‘black danger’ is the real and present threat; what is wrong with Nicholas and others like him can be rooted out, treated and cured like a cancer. But just when fear pushes Nicholas to accept unspeakable horrors in the hopes of staying invisible, a tender relationship with another recruit becomes as dangerous for them both as any enemy fire.
Dir Oliver Hermanus; With Kai Luke Brummer, Ryan de Villiers, Matthew Vey South Africa-UK, 2019
Monsoon Saturday 05 October 2019 | 18:15 | Empire Haymarket, Screen 1 Sunday 06 October 2019 | 15:45 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen Monday 07 October 2019 | 15:00 | Vue West End, Screen 7
Londoner Kit (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians) has come to Vietnam to scatter his mother’s ashes and to connect with the place he departed from as a child. But everything has changed and he finds little to anchor him. That is, until he meets Lewis, a black American living in Saigon whose father served in the war that still underscores many of Kit’s interactions. Monsoon builds an atmosphere that will likely resonate with anyone who has felt that unique sense of loneliness at being somewhere they once belonged.
Dir-Scr Hong Khaou; With Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers UK, 2018
On a Magical Night(Chambre 212) Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 21:00 | Cine Lumiere Friday 11 October 2019 | 16:00 | Vue West End Cinema, Screen 9 Saturday 12 October 2019 | 15:45 | Vue West End, Screen 7
After yet another bitter row, Maria (Chiara Mastroianni) finds herself staying in a hotel overlooking the apartment she shares with husband Richard (Benjamin Biolay). As she debates what to do next, the ghosts of past lovers begin to fill the room, forcing Maria to confront her romantic triumphs and failures. Shot through with the director’s customary eroticism and wit, this gorgeous and often funny film returns to similar territory as break out films Dans Paris (LFF 2006) and Les Chansons D’Amour. The same vivid evocation of Paris is found here, along with a healthy preoccupation with beautiful people and their love affairs. But a refreshing romantic pessimism feels new, lending this apparently small-scale drama an unsentimental and perceptive insight and wisdom.
Dir-Scr Christophe Honoré; With Chiara Mastroianni, Vincent Lacoste, Camille Cottin, Anthony Fulrad France-Luxembourg-Belgium, 2019
Returning to the US as Europe’s ‘It’ girl after her breakout success – including Godard’s Breathless – Seberg (Stewart) finds herself a target of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI when she becomes romantically involved with Black Panther Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and flaunts her disregard for America’s misogynistic and racist institutions. Stewart dazzles as the starlet who was all-but-destroyed by an archly conservative FBI – then a nefarious organisation with virtually unchecked power – and dismayed as she unwittingly took others down with her.
Dir Benedict Andrews; With Kristen Stewart, Jack O’Connell, Anthony Mackie, Colm Meaney, Zazie Beetz USA, 2019
The Street Friday 11 October 2019 | 18:15 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen Saturday 12 October 2019 | 12:30 | ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Some of the businesses on Hoxton Street have been around for over a hundred years. But recent times have witnessed an explosion of coffee shops, art spaces and property development. Sound familiar? The locals feel the exclusion of being priced out, and wonder who’s to blame, while Cameron’s EU referendum looms in the background. Xenophobia is tangible; and with a new working space offering colourful ball-pit baths, the disconnect between the new creatives and the local community seems irreconcilable. From 82-year-old Colleen, to the couple who met as teens working in the pie shop they now run, everyone is feeling a storm coming.
Heralding the start of BFI Musicals!, a major UK-wide celebration of the genre, this 50th anniversary screening of Bob Fosse’s directorial debut is a high-energy paean to love, the 1960s and a showcase of his remarkable talent. Fosse’s distinctive choreography, appetite for irony and bold editing ensure that his films are among the most vital in the musical canon, with ‘Big Spender’ and ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ – the inspiration for Beyoncé’s ‘Get Me Bodied’ video – among the stand-out numbers. MacLaine replaced Broadway star Gwen Verdon, but she lights up the screen with Charity’s boundless joie de vivre. She’s brilliantly matched by Chita Rivera and the underrated Paula Kelly as her co-workers at the Fandango Ballroom. When they perform the breathless ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’ it’s hard not to think, no, there really isn’t. We will also be showing the rarely seen ten-minute alternative ending after the film.
Dir Bob Fosse; With Shirley MacLaine, John McMartin, Ricardo Montalban, Paula Kelly USA, 1969
With a career trajectory that parallels frequent creative collaborator Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan’s rise has been meteoric. From a stunning, acclaimed performance in Coogler’s Sundance-winning Fruitvale Station in 2013, he went on to global megastar status with an intense, soulful turn as titular pugilist Adonis Creed in the Creed series of films and, as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, he became the ‘baddie’ that everyone loathed to hate. Pre-Fruitvale, Jordan impressed in television with roles in acclaimed shows The Wire when he was still in his teens and, just a few years later, Friday Night Lights. Moving into producing, he started his own company Outlier Society, which has a first look deal with Warner Brothers. A powerful advocate for inclusion in the industry, Outlier was one of the first in 2018 to publicly adopt the Inclusion Rider – a contractual stipulation which requires the hiring of a diverse cast and crew on projects. Just Mercy, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, is one of the first projects the company have produced with the Rider in place. The film stars Jordan in a lead role which garnered rave reviews on its recent World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival.
A late addition to the festival, Kasi Lemmons will be talking about her trailblazing career and the making of Harriet, portrayed by Cynthia Erivo.
Starting out as a child actor, the St Louis, Missouri-born Lemmons subsequently appeared in such US television staples as Murder, She Wrote and ER, while also scoring big screen supporting roles in Spike Lee’s collegiate musical School Daze (1988), the cult Nicolas Cage black comedy Vampire’s Kiss (1988), multiple Academy Award winner The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and horror classic Candyman (1992). Having enrolled in the film program at New York’s renowned New School for Social Research, she made an unforgettable directorial debut with the hugely acclaimed Eve’s Bayou: a lyrical, multi-layered and avowedly feminist family saga set in early ’60s Louisiana. Hailed as the best film of 1997 by Roger Ebert, Lemmons’ landmark first outing behind the camera was recently selected by America’s Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry. She reunited with Eve’s Bayou star/producer Samuel L. Jackson for twisted mystery The Caveman’s Valentine (2001); won both the African-American Film Critics and NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Director prizes for second feature Talk to Me (2007, starring the equally garlanded Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor); and most recently directed Angela Bassett to an NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress prize with 2013’s Langston Hughes adaptation Black Nativity.
Inspired by the ‘Strategies of Refusal’ Experimenta 2019 programme, this year’s Experimenta Debate invites artists working with the moving image to explore the resistive strategies they employ in their engagement with visual culture. This year’s presenters include Judah Attille, Tanoa Sasraku-Ansah, Adam Farah (free.yard), and Experimenta artists Zinzi Minott and Louis Henderson with a contribution from The Living and the Dead Ensemble. With the lineage of artists moving image still largely stemming from a singular history of avant-garde and experimental cinema, this debate offers an alternative perspective on what innovation and radicality means for artists whose work foregrounds Black experience. What alternative lineages of experimental film practice are artists drawing from? To what extent are artists of marginalised identities able to privilege form over content in their engagement with the audio-visual? Beyond representation, what strategies are artists employing in their practices to address socio-political issues in their work? These provocations follow up on last year’s Debate in which Rabz Lansiquot, Taylor Le Melle & Experimenta 2018 artists Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, Ayo Akingbade and Morgan Quaintance discussed their positions on representation in visual culture, considering the extent to which the visibility of subjects on screen correlates to those same subjects’ agency and sovereignty in praxis.
LFF for Free
Little White Lies Movie Quiz
Prizes to be won, glory to be claimed…
Tickets for this event are FREE but should be booked in advance Tickets available from Tue 24 Sep. Max team size 4. Max 4 tickets per person.
Wednesday 09 October 2019 | 19:00 | Blue Room BFI Southbank
From heroic heroines, famous final lines and award-winning directors, to Hollywood’s golden age, memorable movie flops and the film world’s biggest franchises – come and test your film knowledge. Prizes to be won, glory to be claimed…
Find out more about all of the films on the BFI London Film Festival Website, and remember, there are often standby tickets available for the Sold Out films – if you really want to see it, take a chance and head to the cinema early.