It’s arrived, the 35th BFI Flare film festival. Twelve days of screening, 26 feature films, and 38 free short films, from 23 countries. All films are available online on the BFI Player from the 17th-28th March. There will also be talks available on BFI YouTube and BFI Flare Facebook, including a Screen Talk with actor Russell Tovey. All widely available wherever you are in the UK.
The festival kicks off with the International premiere of JUMP, DARLING. A heartfelt family drama about a drag queen reconnecting with his aging grandmother, featuring a stunning performance from the late Hollywood legend Cloris Leachman in her final starring role, and there are more films to see, immerse yourself in and live through.
Our 2021 selection of Feature and Short films to see at the festival, includes films from Kenya, Canada, Israel, Portugal, France, Brazil, Germany, the UK and USA. There are films about love, activism, and campaigning, with some focusing on individuals and groups that made a difference. Tickets can be purchased on the BFI website.
BODIES includes stories of sex, identity and transformation.
I Am Samuel This is as much a film about Kenya’s complex cultural landscape as it is about two young men who must keep their love a secret. As Murimi notes, ‘Most Kenyans are poor and live in rural areas or informal urban settlements where they cannot afford to hide dangerous secrets like their sexuality’. Filmed over the course of five years, I Am Samuel details how daily life is navigated, with both men negotiating their place in the world as heirs to a traditional way of life. At the same time, we are privileged to witness their commitment, daring and imagination as figures in the queer Kenyan underground. Murimi holds his gaze as he stares this fraught and troubling subject in the face.
Kenya, United Kingdom, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, South Africa 2020 | 70 minutes Directed by: Pete Murimi
On a day unlike any other, Tunde Johnson is confronted with both his sexuality and his race. After coming out to his parents, he is the victim of a racially motivated shooting. Instead of dying he repeatedly undergoes re-incarnation, but the opportunity to do things differently and avoid the tragic consequences of his actions meets the harsh reality of being black and queer in the US. A fresh take on the time loop narrative, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson examines the overlaps of wealth and race, beauty and sexuality, creating a disturbing universe where even the hereafter is a restless limbo upon which the burden of straddling many worlds at once constantly weighs.
USA 2019 | 104 minutes Directed by: Ali LeRoi Featuring: Steven Silver, Spencer Neville, Nicola Peltz
Valentina wishes the only complications in her life were crushes on cute boys and fake IDs to go clubbing. But as a transgender teen in Brazil today, she faces significant social stigma and bureaucratic barriers. Her steadfast mum will do anything to smooth the path, so together they start over in a new town where nobody knows Valentina is trans. She becomes fast friends with a sweet gay guy and a pregnant computer nerd, but when they find themselves separated at a drunken party Valentina is harassed by someone who threatens to out her. However, with her steely support network and a maturity and resolve far beyond her years, she steamrollers the haters in this timely and transcendent drama.
Brazil 2020 | 95 minutes Directed by: Cássio Pereira dos Santos Featuring: Thiessa Woinbackk, Guta Stresser, Rômulo Braga
Shana Myara’s documentary focuses on fat and fierce babes in Canada who are using their creativity to clap back at a diet culture that seeks to shrink marginalised bodies. Interviewees all tell stories of struggle, self-actualisation and radicalisation, and taking back charge in a fatphobic, racist heteronormative society. Here, fatness, queer identity and race intersect in unique ways that never get represented in film, underlined with a fat-ass bass soundtrack and gorgeous animation. It’s a truly liberating film, and through its use of burlesque, comedy, dance circus, media and more, you will be left in no doubt of the intrinsic value of ALL bodies. DIY, direct and full of heart, Well Rounded takes us through personal stories of terror and triumph – this is the fat queer film we’ve been waiting for!
HEARTS includes films about love, romance and friendsh
Boy Meets Boy It’s Harry’s final day in Berlin, and he has been partying for the last 48 hours. On the sweaty euphoria of the dancefloor he shares a kiss with Johannes. Striking up a conversation, Johannes offers to help Harry print his boarding pass, leading them to spend the rest of the day wandering the city streets together. But with Harry’s imminent flight back to the UKlooming, the pair are quickly forced to understand the true impact of this brief encounter. Boasting beautifully natural performances from Matthew James Morrison and Alexandros Koutsoulis, Boy Meets Boy is a distinctly modern queer love story, exploring the complexities of attraction and power of connection in ways that are both refreshingly realistic and achingly romantic.
Germany 2021 | 75 minutes Directed by: Daniel Sánchez López Featuring: Alexandros Koutsoulis, Matthew James Morrison
Sweetheart The last place socially awkward 17-year-old AJ wants to be is on holiday at the seaside with her oh-so-annoying family. Dragged along by put-upon mum Tina, AJ is determined not to have fun. When she discovers the campsite doesn’t even have Wi-Fi, it promises to be the worst week of her life. But then a chance meeting with resident lifeguard Isla changes AJ’s perspective. Perhaps being stuck there with no means of escape isn’t so bad when there is the chance she could fall in love for the first time. Marley Morrison’s debut feature is a refreshing take on the coming-of-age story. Playing it confidently for laughs, with some dramatic currents underpinning the action, it features a knockout performance by Nell Barlow as the misunderstood AJ. A delight throughout and not to be missed.
United Kingdom 2021 | 103 minutes Directed by: Marley Morrison Featuring: Nell Barlow, Jo Hartley, Ella-Rae Smith
MINDS features reflections on art, politics and community.
Mama Gloria Described as a ‘love letter to a charismatic activist’, Fisher’s heartfelt debut is a warm and honest depiction of trans life in Chicago’s Black community. Gloria Allen, also known as ‘Mama Gloria’, narrates her life from early childhood and becoming a fixture of the ball scene in Chicago’s South Side to creating a charm school for local trans girls, proving that trans women can live to old age. Gloria’s unique perspective dispels the myth that aggressive racism only existed in the southern states, and from that context the film confronts the distressing violence that has punctuated her life. Nonetheless, it is a life lived with the support of deep family ties, buoyed by faith and carried forward with remarkable kindness.
USA 2020 | 76 minutes Directed by: Luchina Fisher Featuring: Gloria Allen
Rebel Dykes It’s finally here! After a rabble-rousing preview at Flare 2016, Rebel Dykes returns in all its ass-kicking, leather-wearing glory. The film follows a tight-knit group of friends who met at Greenham Common peace camp and went on to become artists, performers, musicians and activists in London. A heady mash-up of animation, archive footage and interviews tells the story of a radical scene: squatters, BDSM nightclubs, anti-Thatcher rallies, protests demanding action around AIDS and the fierce ties of chosen family. This is an extraordinarily privileged glimpse into a bygone world by those who not only lived out their politics with heartfelt conviction but lived to tell the tale.
United Kingdom 2021 | 82 minutes Directed by: Harri Shanahan, Sîan Williams Featuring: Siobhan Fahey
Other films worth seeing:
The Greenhouse – Discovering a way to travel back in time helps Beth come to terms with her present in this daringly original debut.
No Ordinary Man – The fascinating story of pioneering jazz musician Billy Tipton is brought thrillingly to life in this celebratory documentary portrait. Includes insight from scholar, author, and activist, C. Riley Snorton on the interaction with Black musicians.
P.S. Burn This Letter Please – When a cache of letters written by 1950s New York drag queens was discovered in 2014, filmmakers Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera tracked down the authors to hear their story. There is a brief and fascinating look at the Harlem drag scene at that time.
Beginnings and Endings From an unexpectedly eventful train journey, to the end of the world, this stunning collection of shorts explores the trials and triumphs of being your true self.
Buck – In an attempt to deal with his depression, Lynn goes out into the night looking for a good time. Dirs. Elegance Bratton, Jovan James. USA 2020, 14mins.
Cosmopolitan– Jacob faces racial prejudice when he attempts to enter a gay nightclub. Dir. Moran Nakar. Israel 2020, 7mins.
For the Record Traversing a wide range of subjects, this inspiring selection of short form documentaries is guaranteed to provoke and inspire in equal measures.
Above the Troubled Water– Three Nigerian men are scattered across the globe after escaping homophobic violence. Dir. Joe Cohen. United Kingdom, USA 2020, 38mins.
Tracing Utopia– Young queers connect in a sci-fi dream world to build a war machine of love and a virtual manifesto for the future. Dirs. Catarina de Sousa, Nick Tyson. Portugal, USA 2021, 27mins.
Heart’s Desires History, geography and personal circumstances may change but challenges facing the heart are timeless and universal.
The Act – One young man faces up to the joys and perils of living a gay life amidst the sexual repressiveness of pre-1967 London. Dir. Thomas Hescott. United Kingdom 2020, 18mins.
Isaac and the Ram– A tense encounter between a young man in distress and his reluctant saviour. Dir. Jason Bradbury. United Kingdom 2020, 15mins.
Of Hearts and Castles– When two lonely men meet they discover something revealing about each other and themselves. Dir. Rubén Navarro. USA, Spain 2020, 14mins.
Into the Unknown The blurred lines of love and friendship between women are explored in these poignant and beautiful short films.
The Cost of Living– Lily is stuck in a state of ennui, until Death comes along in the form of a beautiful woman and entices her to live. Dir. Alice Trueman. United Kingdom 2021, 13mins.
Love Is a Hand Grenade – Mixing drink, drugs and a friendship on eggshells was always going to be an explosive mix in this bittersweet British mini drama. Dir. Jessica Benhamou. United Kingdom 2020, 13mins.
Queer as in Question Everything Here’s a collection of funny, sweet and strange shorts for the natural contrarian.
Acrimonious – Hilarious, heart-breaking and relatable all at once – how to bounce back when a breakup crashes you back down to earth? Dir. Olivia Emden. United Kingdom 2020, 14mins.
Pure– Whoever you are, whatever your desires, you too shall go to the prom! Dir. Natalie Harris. USA 2020, 12mins.
We Two – A smart, meditative take on the gulf that emerges between ex-lovers. Dir. Grace Porter. United Kingdom 2020, 3mins.
Shapes We Make, Spaces We Take Our relationship to our bodies and our homes have become more complex than ever. These five shorts up the ante, exploring where, how and with whom we feel at home.
Space / Walk – Two queer people talk intergenerational experience down on England’s south coast. Dirs. Tarik Elmoutawakil, Amina Yousif, Carmen D’Cruz. United Kingdom 2020, 23mins.
Transitions II: Movement in Isolation – Aesthetically bold, visually rich – a beautiful non-linear encounter with the physical and social dimensions of chronic pain. Dir. Tobi Adebajo. Nigeria, United Kingdom 2020, 12mins.
Striving to Be Seen Inquisitive tales of resilience, memory and enlightenment in this largely fictional selection, traversing an expanse of trans experience across Europe and the Americas.
Dustin– A wild drug-fuelled ride and the long morning after follows the highs and lows of a Parisian party queen. Dir. Naïla Guiguet. France 2020, 20mins.
Unliveable– Those close to a missing trans woman join forces to search for her, until a strange canister points towards an extra-terrestrial mystery. Dirs. Matheus Farias, Enock Carvalho. Brazil 2020, 20mins.
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.
“When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…”
Idiosyncratic director Jim Jarmusch pays homage to the samurai movie with a hybrid of the hip hop and mob genres. Forest Whitaker stars as a loner hitman in this hauntingly poetic and obliquely funny gem
Futuristic thriller starring Will Smith as a troubled cop whose issues with the ever-increasing robot population are seemingly vindicated when one of them becomes a murder suspect. Slick sci-fi from Alex Proyas, director of Dark City
Heaven can wait for Patrick Swayze in this supernatural love story starring Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.
Saturday 12th November
I, Robot – 6.45pm
Futuristic thriller starring Will Smith as a troubled cop whose issues with the ever-increasing robot population are seemingly vindicated when one of them becomes a murder suspect. Slick sci-fi from Alex Proyas, director of Dark City
The programme for this years BFI London Film Festival runs from 5-16th October 2016. Every year, EC Forde and I try and outline the films that interest us. Some will get a big cinema release, others, a smaller cinema release, and some you may catch at other festivals and screening events. The rest may just vanish from our radar, with the hope that they pop up somewhere in the future (e.g. TV/DVD/Event). So this is the perfect opportunity to see films from around the world. Particularly interesting this year are the number of films we wanted to list. 33 features, and 13 short films.
They take us on a journey through, Mali, Nigeria, Chad, Botswana, South Africa, America, Uganda, Haiti, France and the UK.
See our selection below and find out more on the BFI 60th London Film Festivalwebsite.
Following her groundbreaking debut Bombay Beach, director Alma Har’el returns with another genre-bending, visually stunning gem about our perception of love and relationships, including the psyche of Victory, a young black woman in New York City pondering family bonds and faith.
The powerful true life tale of one girl’s determination to escape from poverty in Uganda by becoming a chess champion, directed by Mira Nair and starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.
A female-directed and rare film from Niger, about a privileged young woman who comes back home, in the sultanate of Zinder, after studying in Paris to discover the truth of the relationships between women and men in her society.
The Sea is History (work in progress) – The Sea is History, made in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, is a free adaptation of the poem by Derek Walcott as a materialist and animist critique of the monumentalisation of European colonial history and its ripples into the present.
The programme for this years BFI London Film Festival runs from 7-18th October 2015. Every year, EC Forde and I try and outline the films we think have an afrocentric slant to them, in the hope that you get the chance to see them before they disappear from London cinemas. Some of course will get a big cinema release, others, a smaller cinema release, and some you may catch at other festivals and screening events. The rest may just vanish from our radar, with the hope that they pop up somewhere in the future (e.g. TV/DVD/Event). That is the beauty of the Film Festival, the ability to have access to these films covering topics from all over the world.
This years films takes us to the mountains of Ethiopia (Lamb), introduces us to a female mechanic in Johannesburg (Ayanda), brings us love, lust and power in Lagos (Fifty), child rebel soldiers in an unnamed African country (Beasts of No Nation), a look at male friendship in St Louis (Cronies), and a documentary in Tottenham – friends and family of Mark Duggan explore his life and subsequent death in 2011 (The Hard Stop).
My love affair with music related films continues, and I am looking forward to the “Sonic” stream of music films at the festival, If I’m honest, I could probably watch all of the films in this section of films, but EC and I are giving a nod to three you should check out, including two films about Hip Hop. One on the clothing culture and how it influenced fashion on the catwalks and high streets (Fresh Dressed) and the other on Hip Hop Radio presenters Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia (Stretch and Bobbito:Radio That Changed Lives)… AND, if that isn’t enough, there is an after-party after the screening at Hackney Picturehouse, where Stretch and Bobbito DJ at Birthdays on Stock Newington Road (Saturday 17th)!
So much more to tell you, and we will be back with more films, particulary the short films worth catching, and maybe some of the films available online.
EC Forde & Jammie xx
In the meantime, here is our list of recommended films:
It’s 1914 and 12-year-old Adama lives with his elder brother Samba in a small west African village. They have been raised to be naturally sceptical of the negative forces or spirits that live outside the community, so the family is shocked when Samba runs away to become a warrior. Adama leaves the village soon after in order to search for him. His epic journey takes him across several continents and forces the boy to take stock of the world at large, particularly a war-strewn Europe where, it becomes clear, Samba has been sent to the front line trenches to fight. Adama is a richly animated film that deals with an important chapter in world history. It is as exciting and enlightening as it is moving.
Saturday 10 October 3:45pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2 Sunday 11 October 3:45pm @ BFI Southbank, NFT2
Sara Belcher’s Ayanda is a fresh, modern tale set in a vibrant and diverse Johannesburg. 21-year-old Afro-hipster and artist Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani) is the child of a Nigerian father and a South African mother (Nthati Moshesh). After her father’s death she inherits his struggling garage and along with her mechanic boyfriend David (OC Ukeje) they work hard, combining their skills, to keep the business going. In order to attract custom they decide to specialise in the buying, refurbishing and selling of vintage cars. Using a collage-style ‘inspired by the possibilities of a modern African aesthetic’, Blecher presents colourful portraits of the multi-national residents living in Johannesburg’s Yeoville suburb, intercut with a rousing narrative of two individuals with nothing to lose overcoming all odds. A lively, engaging and ultimately celebratory female-centred story, Ayanda also highlights the Afro-cultural hub that modern South Africa is fast becoming.
Saturday 10 October 8:45pm @ Cineworld Haymarket, Screen 1 Sunday 11 October 6:15pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
Beasts of No Nation
Cary Fukunaga’s (True Detective, Jane Eyre, Sin Nombre) unflinching adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel of the same name (itself borrowed from Fela Kuti’s 1989 album) is at once enthralling cinema and a gut-wrenching indictment of child exploitation. In an unnamed African country, civil conflict rips through the village where Agu, a sparky young boy, lives with his family. Witnessing unspeakable atrocities, including the brutal execution of his father and older brother, Agu is forced to run for his life. He is discovered, dazed and traumatised, by a group of rebel soldiers and is swiftly incorporated into their ranks by a fierce mercenary. The Commandant (Idris Elba), who receives his own orders from afar and for an unknown purpose keeps his militia fuelled with a heady mix of intoxicating bravado and hard drugs, maintains control through psychological and physical abuse. Rapidly adapting in order to survive, Agu is pushed to unthinkable limits. Idris Elba is charismatic and terrifying as the unhinged Commandant and newcomer Abraham Attah is a revelation as Agu, delivering a performance that (like his character) carries a weight beyond his years. Whilst deeply true to its African subject, the film resonates darkly beyond its situation, serving as a harsh reminder of childhoods destroyed in war zones and deprived urban areas everywhere.
Thursday 08 October 6:00pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 7 Thursday 08 October 6:30pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 5 Friday 09 October 12:30pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 5
Black Girl (La Noire de…)
The evolution of African cinema can be dated from Sembène’s astonishing first feature, which tells the tragic story of Diouana, a young Senegalese woman eager to find a better life and who takes a job as a governess for a bourgeois French family. Mistreated by her employers, Diouana’s hopes turn to disillusionment and she descends into a state of isolation and despair. Sembène draws from the Nouvelle Vague, but the film’s heart and soul is most definitely African. It is the perfect companion to Samba Gadjigo’s documentary Sembéne!.
Wednesday 07 October 6:20pm @ BFI Southbank, NFT3 Friday 09 October 1:30pm @ BFI Southbank, NFT3
Executive produced by Spike Lee and developed while director Michael J Larnell was in film school, Cronies is a funny, sharply-observed look at male friendship. Louis and Jack have been mates since their tough childhood in one of the poorer, mostly black neighbourhoods of St Louis. Now grown up, they’re growing apart with Jack partying every day, while Louis has a baby and a job at a carwash. Louis’ new friend Andrew, the white guy whose parents own the car wash, threatens the delicate balance of the pair’s friendship. Then a spontaneous day out turns into a weed-fuelled test of their bond. With hints of Clerks, not least in the gorgeous B&W photography and rough-hewn charm, Larnell delivers a smart film about growing up and an ode to his native St Louis with the three local actors giving performances full of great natural appeal.
Thursday 08 October 6:30pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2 Saturday 10 October 2:45pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 7
The Endless River
In a small South African town, a man returns home from a four-year prison sentence. Tiny, his wife, finds herself agonising over their inability to reconnect. Meanwhile, on the other side of town Gilles, a French ex-pat is devasted by the brutal murder of his wife and young children. United in their suffering, Tiny and Gilles form an unlikely bond, turning to each other for help and companionship. While the gorgeous opening credits feel like a homage to a classic Hollywood western, Oliver Hermanus’ third feature (following the acclaimed Shirley Adams and Beauty) soon proves to be something far more thought-provoking. Defiantly ambiguous in its storytelling and consistently surprising in its aesthetic choices, The Endless River is undeniably demanding. However, thanks to the extraordinary central performances from Crystal-Donna Roberts and Nicolas Duvauchelle, along with Hermanus’ intelligent direction, such formal invention never eclipses the film’s devastating emotional impact.
Tuesday 13 October 2015 18:20 @ Curzon Mayfair Cinema Thursday 15 October 2015 21:00 @Vue Cinema Islington
Biyi Bandele’s follow-up to Half of a Yellow Sun is a riveting exploration of love and lust, power and rivalry, and seduction and infidelity, set in Africa’s most populous city, Lagos. It details a few pivotal days in the lives of four women at the pinnacle of their careers and revelling in the power and supposed wisdom that comes with age. Tola is a reality TV star whose marriage to lawyer Kunle never stood a chance, thanks to an unpleasant family secret. Elizabeth is a celebrated obstetrician whose penchant for younger men has estranged her from her daughter. 49-year-old Maria has an affair with a married man that causes explosive rifts in her social circle. And for Kate, her battle with a life-threatening illness has prompted an obsession with religion. Elegantly performed, featuring a vibrant, pulsating soundtrack and with Lagos evocatively filmed by Malcolm McLean, Fifty is a joy to watch.
Saturday 17 October 6:00pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 7 Sunday 18 October 6:30pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
In this fascinating and lively directorial debut, Sacha Jenkins continues his chronicling of hip hop culture that began with his journalism in the 1990s, followed by his 2008 publication, ‘Piecebook: The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers’. Here, he tells the story of the colourful characters that emerged from urban roots to hustle the oversized pants and graffiti-emblazoned jackets from the New York discount stores and would go on to influence both the fashion world’s catwalks and middle America’s shopping malls. Channelled through an entertaining collage of original interviews, archive footage, gloriously ‘fresh’ stills and groove-inducing hip hop, Jenkins’ film connects the dots between music, style, self-expression and identity politics. Moving from pre-Civil War slavery to South Bronx in the 1970s and the super-connected niche cultures of today, Fresh Dressed is the story of freedom of expression as articulated by disenfranchised and oppressed peoples.
Saturday 17 October 6:30pm @ Hackney Picturehouse, Screen 1 Sunday 18 October 3:00pm @ Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Gold Coast (Guldkysten)
In 1836, young botanist Wulff Joseph Wulff is dispatched to the Danish colonies in Guinea (present-day southeast Ghana) to establish and oversee a coffee plantation. He is fuelled by naïve optimism and what he believes is a progressive mentality, but his troubling experience of colonial life radically challenges his very European complacency. Based on fact, but far from a traditional historical drama, both in style and content, writer/director Daniel Dencik’s story evolves through a series of richly textured dreamlike vignettes. Dencik employs a creative collision of fact and imagination to build a mesmerising picture of Wulff’s moral compass, thoughts and inner life. And Jakob Oftebro (Kon-Tiki) delivers an extraordinary and extreme performance as Wulff, by turns visceral, conflicted and heartbreaking. The addition of Angelo Badalamenti’s ethereal contemporary score further helps to bring a distinctive freshness to this powerful and ambitious feature debut.
Sunday 11 October 6:00pm @ Cineworld Haymarket, Screen 1 Tuesday 13 October 6:30pm @ Vue Cinema Islington, Screen 1 Thursday 15 October 12:00pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 7
The Hard Stop
The Hard Stop is an intimate documentary revealing the story, away from all press coverage, of Mark Duggan’s friends and family following his death. He was shot and killed in a ‘Hard Stop’ police procedure in 2011, sparking the most violent riots in British history. For 28 months, director George Amponsah (The Fighting Spirit) filmed around Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, where Duggan grew up, capturing his family’s distress and focusing on two of his best friends, Marcus Knox and Kurtis Henville. We follow the men closely as they attempt to get on with their lives, look for a job, talk about the discrimination they experience on a daily basis and the impact Duggan’s death has had on the community. Duggan is present throughout, in peoples’ testimonies and news broadcasts. What emerges is a profoundly humane, thought-provoking and topical testament, which gives a voice to people who are rarely heard.
Saturday 17 October 8:45pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 7 Sunday 18 October 3:45pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
They Will Have To Kill Us First
Stretch and Bobbito
The Hard Stop
Beasts of No Nation
Red Leaves (Alim adumim)
The Endless River
This is an exquisite, multilayered directorial feature debut that unfolds amidst the breathtakingly beautiful mountains of Ethiopia. After the death of his mother, 9-year-old Ephraim is taken from his drought-stricken home by his father who places him in the care of relatives while he goes to look for work in Addis Ababa. Ephraim has his pet sheep Chuni for company and they are inseparable, spending all their time playing together. Ephraim’s uncle, a hard working peasant-farmer, is frustrated that Ephraim doesn’t seem to be good at anything. However, the situation turns against Ephraim when he is told that Chuni will be sacrificially slaughtered at the next religious feast. Distraught at this news, Ephraim decides that he must take drastic action to save his only friend, even if that means returning home. Lamb marks the arrival of a major new African filmmaker in Yared Zeleke.
Friday 09 October 6:30PM @ ICA Cinema, Screen 1 Saturday 10 October 9:00pm @ Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Jonas Carpignano’s riveting feature debut is an ultra-topical tale of two young African men, Ayiva and Abas from Burkina Faso who, in search of a better life, make the difficult and dangerous trip across the Sahara desert and Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy. Needless to say, their destination is more problematic than the two friends imagined. The Calabrian community is hostile to immigrants who attempt to eke out an existence there, which eventually leads to violence and rioting. Played by a largely non-professional cast (many having experienced similar problems), Mediterranea is a powerful, strikingly shot and utterly believable film. Directed with verve and considerable aplomb by director Carpignano, the film was developed from his award winning short A Chianna, which also drew on real life events.
Friday 16 October 9:15pm @ Curzon Mayfair Cinema, Screen 1 Saturday 17 October 1:00pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
Sebastián Silva’s Nasty Baby is one of the most original works of the year, by turns beguiling, seductive and confrontational. Successful artist Freddy (Silva) and his boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) are happily ensconced in Brooklyn and preparing to have a baby with Freddy’s best friend Polly (Kristen Wiig). Silva quickly draws us into their world and we identify with their worries: how to impregnate Polly; what Mo’s conservative family make of it; how to manage their increasingly disruptive neighbour. All against the backdrop of Freddy’s attempts to create a new work for a major gallery and struggling with the threat of deportation. These truthful and urgent cares are more than enough to make the film compelling. But the roguishly brilliant Silva hasn’t set out to deliver an absorbing ‘post-race’ drama about gay parenting. Instead, he plays a breathtaking and audacious late curve ball that is guaranteed to spark passionate post-screening debates.
Tuesday 13 October 8:45pm @ Cineworld Haymarket, Screen 1 Thursday 15 October 8:45pm @ Hackney Picturehouse, Screen 1
For his directorial debut, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer delves into the world of contemporary Johannesburg’s privileged youth. He plays Jabz, a twentysomething slacker who hangs out with best friend September in their uptown neighbourhood. They embark on a drug and alcohol-fuelled spree – their way of dealing with the circumstances that led to their friend’s live-streamed suicide a year before. Beautifully shot in black and white, Necktie Youth avoids the stereotypes that often undermine the country’s cinematic output, instead presenting a refreshing portrait of the ‘born frees’ – the generation born since 1990 and after the fall of Apartheid. Though their parents fought for or experienced the struggle against that regime, these youths are ill-equipped to handle the tragedy that blows apart their relatively sheltered lives. Winner of the Best South African Film and Best Director awards at the Durban International Film Festival, this is a promising film from a major new talent.
Friday 16 October 9:00pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2 Sunday 18 October 4:00pm @ Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1
Red Leaves (Alim adumim)
This marvellous first feature by Tel Aviv-based Ethiopian director Bazzi Gete tells the story of Meseganio, an immigrant who has been living in Israel for almost 30 years. After the death of his wife, he announces to his family that he will be selling his house and living with them. A stubborn patriarch, Meseganio is used to having everything done his way, so he is angry and hurt when his hard-line traditional values are challenged. He clashes with his daughter-in-law when she stands up to him and is shocked that his teenage granddaughter has a non-Ethiopian boyfriend. What makes this portrait of a man out of time with the world so compelling is Debebe Eshetu’s central performance. Scrupulously watched by Eddan Sasson’s camera – often in extreme close up to capture his anguish and outrage – Eshetu perfectly captures Meseganio’s inability to understand his children or exercise any power over them.
Thursday 08 October 9:15pm @ BFI Southbank, NFT3 Monday 12 October 6:30pm @ Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
This incisive documentary chronicles the life of the internationally acclaimed filmmaker, considered by many to be the father of African cinema. Ousmane Sembène was a self-taught novelist and filmmaker. His ambition was to make films that would reach a vast African audience, from the illiterate to the educated. He dropped out from school when he was in the fifth grade and left Senegal, embarking on a journey that took him to Marseille where he worked as a docker. It was following an accident and the subsequent months lain in bed that Sembène began writing. From there he attended the Gorky Film Institute in Moscow and shortly after directed his first short film. Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman’s film details Semebène’s transformation into a world class filmmaker, through personal recollection, archive footage and the magnificent films he made. It is a fitting tribute to one of cinema’s great pioneers and storytellers. The director’s stunning feature debut Black Girl is also screening in the LFF.
Wednesday 07 October 8:45pm @ BFI Southbank, NFT3 Thursday 08 October 3:30pm @ BFI Southbank, NFT2
Stretch and Bobbito: Radio that Changed Lives
In 1990, Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia started broadcasting on New York’s WKCR. The pair filled the airwaves with their intense passion for Hip Hop, uniquely infectious chemistry and sense of humour. Presenting exclusive demo tapes and live in-studio freestyles from a range of artists who were unsigned at the time but now read like a roll call who’s who of the hip hop world, the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show rapidly became a rally cry for rap. Their audience ranged from kids from the streets, the prison community and downtown fashionistas. It is a personal account of the show through its halcyon days, featuring previously unreleased footage and contributions from Nas, Biggie, Wu-Tang, Big Pun, Rosie Perez, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Q-Tip, Jay Z and many more. This is simply a must for any fan of hip hop.
Thursday 15 October 9:00pm @ Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1 Saturday 17 October 8:45pm @ Hackney Picturehouse, Screen 1
Fizzing and popping with the energy of as-it-happened classics like Before Sunset and Do the Right Thing, Sean Baker’s Tangerine, a tale of two transsexual hookers on Santa Monica Boulevard, could prove the sleeper hit of the year. On Christmas Eve, released from a brief stint in jail, Sin-Dee Rella meets her best friend Alexandra who reveals that her beau, Chester, has been cheating on her with a ‘white fish’ (a Caucasian female-born woman). The news propels the mercurial Sin-Dee to find Chester’s new girl and teach her a lesson. Remarkably, considering the richness of the bold, saturated colour and widescreen photography, Baker and his co-cinematographer, Radium Cheung filmed this on iPhone 5s, grabbing most scenes with just two cameras and dolly shots filmed from cycles. The result is a film of urgency and veracity, with charming performances from transgender non-actors Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. From donut shop to Hollywood dive bar, the comedy of hair pulling and bitch slapping gives way to something altogether more tender and unexpected: a film about female friendship and solidarity.
Friday 09 October 8:45pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 7 Friday 09 October 9:15pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 5 Saturday 10 October 12:30pm @ Vue West End Cinema, Screen 5
Filmed on the remote island of Tanna in Vanuatu, this visually ravishing film tells the story of Wawu, a young woman who has fallen in love with her chief’s grandson, Dain. Despite their desire to marry, Wawa’s family forbid this union. When an inter-tribal war breaks out with a neighbouring community, her hand is unwittingly promised as part of the peace negotiations. With the threat of separation looming, Wawa and Dain abandon their homes in an attempt to be together, causing further upset between the warring clans. Based on the true story that took place in 1985, this is a stunningly photographed, evocative tale of two star-crossed lovers fighting the laws of ancient tradition and tribal custom. Working with an extraordinary cast of non-actors, acclaimed documentary filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean have made an arresting narrative debut, expanding on their previous work with indigenous communities, resulting in a truly special film.
Friday 16 October 9:15pm @ Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1 Sunday 18 October 3:30pm @ Vue Cinema Islington, Screen 1
They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music In Exile
Imagine living in a world with no radio, no stereos and no live music. It is difficult to contemplate, but that is exactly what happened in an area of Mali in 2012. Islamic Jihadists took control of Northern Mali and through a harsh interpretation of Sharia law they banned all forms of music. In a tragedy that constitutes nothing less than a crime against humanity for a country famous for its vibrant and colourful music, radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned and revered musicians faced torture, even death. For her feature debut, Johanna Schwartz intelligently captures the complexity and emotion of the life of musicians forced into exile and desperate to keep their music alive. The score was composed by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner and there is music from a variety of artists, including Khaira Arby, Fadimata ‘Disco’ Walet Oumar, Amkoullel and Moussa Sidi
Tuesday 13 October 6:15pm @ Picturehouse Central, Screen 1 Wednesday 14 October 6:30pm @ Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1