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The 61st BFI London Film Festival reveals full line-up


Story by Jack Foley

THE full programme for the 61st BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® has been unveiled.

This year’s line-up features a diverse selection of 242 feature films from both established and emerging talent.

Taking place between October 4 and 15, 2017, the line-up includes 46 documentaries, 6 animations, 14 archive restorations and 16 artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 128 short films, and 67 countries are represented across short film and features.

Each evening of the Festival sees a Headline Gala presentation at Odeon Leicester Square. Films in Official Competition and Strand Galas are once again presented at the 820-seat Embankment Garden Cinema following a successful inaugural year in 2016, with audiences and filmmakers alike praising its quality of cinema experience.

This temporary venue, constructed to the highest technical specifications, brings the festival to even more people and connects screenings in the West End with the BFI’s home cinema at BFI Southbank.

The Festival will also show a thrilling range of new cinema in sections Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Experimenta and Family – which provide pathways for audiences to navigate the programme.

In 2017, the LFF presents a new strand, Create, featuring films that celebrate artistic practice in all its channels and forms the electricity of the creative process, reflecting London’s position as one of the world’s leading creative cities.

Audiences will also have the opportunity to hear some of the world’s creative leaders through the Festival’s acclaimed talks’ series LFF Connects, which features artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries, and Screen Talks, a series of in-depth interviews with leaders in contemporary cinema.

Participants this year include Julian Rosefeldt & Cate Blanchett, David Fincher, Demis Hassabis, Nitin Sawhney, Johan Knattrup Jensen, Ian McEwan and Takashi Miike.

The BFI London Film Festival each year provides a vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas, with films stimulating debate and shining a light on pressing social and political issues.

This year a number of ‘talking points’ ripple through the Festival programme, including…

LBGT – In the year of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Festival presents a powerful LGBT line-up.

• Immigration and Social Division – Two of the defining themes of our times are explored by filmmakers who are committed to telling powerful and complex stories about borders – both real and psychological.

• Black Star – Following the BFI’s landmark season celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors in film, recent world events give new urgency to questions of opportunity, and basic human rights.

• Visionaries – Cinema remains one of the most exhilaratingly kinetic and visually potent storytelling forms, and many filmmakers this year impress with the singularity and power of their vision, with keen imagination and dazzling style.

• Thrill – It’s a very strong year for global thrill seekers at the Festival, with a particularly strong showing from East Asia, which comes as the BFI embarks on the UK-wide season BFI Thriller, exploring how the genre reflects societal upheavals, fears and anxieties.

• Strong Women – The Festival continues to shine a light on strong women behind and in front of the camera. At this year’s Festival, 61 women directors are represented in the feature film selection, approximately 25% of the programme.

• Deafness and disability – Both feature with marked prominence in this year’s Festival programme, though the film industry still has a long way to go in terms of representation for disabled people. The Festival’s industry programme will include a partnership event on equality of opportunity and expression for deaf and disabled people working in film & television.

The Festival takes over screens at 15 venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas – Vue Leicester Square and the iconic Odeon Leicester Square; central London venues – BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Picturehouse Central, the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Empire Haymarket, Prince Charles Cinema and Ciné Lumière; and local cinemas – Hackney Picturehouse , Rich Mix in Shoreditch and Curzon Chelsea. Special screenings will also be held at the National Gallery and the Barbican, and several key events will also be cinecasted to cinema venues around the UK.

Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive, BFI, commented: “It is a delight to welcome some of the most thrilling storytellers from across the world to the Festival – we love to watch and engage with the extraordinary conversations that the Festival brings to our doorstep with every edition.

“London has a big heart and this year we are again reminded of the generosity and freedom of this awesome capital city of ours which so readily embraces this multiplicity of cultures and new voices. This creativity is reflected across the UK and the engine that is enabling filmmaking to thrive, supported by a favourable fiscal environment, outstanding skills and talent and ever expanding infrastructure and facilities.”

As previously announced, the Festival opens with the European Premiere of Breathe (pictured), the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, on Wednesday, October 4.

The Festival closes with Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, on Sunday, October 15, marking McDonagh’s return to the Festival following the presentation of Seven Pyschopaths in 2012.

Headline Galas

The American Express Gala is the rousing Battle of the Sexes. Receiving its European Premiere, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s film dramatises the build up to the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men’s-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

Call Me By Your Name features as the Mayor of London’s Gala. Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash LFF 2015) returns to the Festival with this adaptation of André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel – a sun-kissed, cinematic ode to the ecstasy and exquisite pain of first love, starring Timothée Chalamet as Elio, a musically gifted 17-year-old whose idyllic summer break takes a tumultuous turn when Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives to stay at the family palazzo.

The BFI Patrons’ Gala, Downsizing, is a wildly inventive and satirical film from Alexander Payne (Nebraska, LFF 2014) which puts climate change, mobility and immigration under the microscope. After Norwegian scientists discover a method for shrinking people to pocket-size as part of a grand design to limit humanity’s footprint, a thriving parallel ‘small’ society emerges. Ordinary, work-a-day Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) wants to scale-up his options by sizing-down, but things begin to go awry when his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) gets cold feet.

The May Fair Hotel Gala is the European Premiere of Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, in which Annette Bening and Jamie Bell vividly bring to the screen the intense romance between Academy Award®-winning star of The Big Heat and In a Lonely Place, Gloria Grahame and her much younger lover. The film is directed by Paul McGuigan and produced by Colin Vaines and Barbara Broccoli.

Director Saul Dibb brings R C Sheriff’s classic play Journey’s End to the big screen with shattering potency. When C Company, led by Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin) is about to take its posting on the front line during the First World War, with munitions and morale depleted each man’s character is laid bare. The film receives its European Premiere at the LFF.

Yorgos Lanthimos follow-ups The Lobster (LFF 2015), with Headline Gala The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star in a deliciously twisted and slyly macabre morality tale which interlaces elements of Greek tragedy, surrealism and absurdist horror.

Richard Linklater returns to the Festival with the International Premiere of Last Flag Flying, a tribute and sequel to Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail. Both droll road movie and a meditation on the futility of war, the film stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne as an endearingly shambolic threesome of veterans reunited by one man’s tragedy.

Mudbound is Dees Rees’ triumphant return to the Festival after Pariah (LFF 2011). Receiving its European Premiere as the Royal Bank of Canada Gala, her majestic epic examines the histories of two families in the Deep South, charting how the unlikely friendship of two Second World War veterans ignites racial tension.

Exuberantly drawing on classic 1950s sci-fi B-movies and the on-going fascination with Area 51 conspiracy theories, the American Airlines Gala The Shape Of Water, is an old-school tale of the inexplicable and pure cinematic joy from Guillermo del Toro, featuring a wonderful central performance from Sally Hawkins.

Former Best Film and Sutherland Winner, Lynne Ramsay returns to the Festival with Headline Gala You Were Never Really Here, a stark inversion of the noir thriller. This devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse is anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

Strand and Festival Galas

The Festival Gala, in association with Time Out, features Sean Baker’s magical, magnificent and madcap follow up to Tangerine (LFF 2015), The Florida Project, an instant classic about childhood innocence set against the backdrop of America’s failed economy.

The Dare Gala is François Ozon’s Amant Double;
The Family Gala is Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert’s The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales;
The Thrill Gala is Takashi Miike’s Blade Of The Immortal;
The Debate Gala is Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot;
The Laugh Gala in association with Empire is Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected);
The Love Gala is Dominic Cooke’s On Chesil Beach;
The Create Gala is Michel Hazanavicius’ Redoubtable;
The Archive Gala is Shiraz: A Romance of India;
The Cult Gala is Joachim Trier’s Thelma;
And the Journey Gala is Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck.