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63rd BFI London Film Festival announces full line-up including Le Mans '66 & Greed

Le Mans '66

Story by Jack Foley

THE 63rd BFI London Film Festival has announced its full line-up for 2019, presenting 229 feature films from some of the world’s greatest filmmakers and emerging talent.

Among the highlights are the UK premiere of James Mangold’s Le Mans ’66 (pictured), which finds Matt Damon and Christian Bale united in the true story of how Ford took on Ferrari; Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan; the European premiere of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, and the Mayor of London’s Gala screening of The Aeronauts, which reunites Eddie Redmayne and Academy Award® nominee Felicity Jones on-screen for the first time since The Theory of Everything.

As previously announced, the Opening Night gala will be The Personal History of David Copperfield, directed by the multi-award-winning writer, filmmaker and broadcaster Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin, Veep) and starring BAFTA Award winner Dev Patel as David Copperfield.

While the festival will close with the international premiere of Martin Scorsese’s eagerly-anticipated crime epic The Irishman, starring Academy Award® winners Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

For 12 days from October 2-13, 2019 the LFF will celebrate the diverse landscape of international cinema, showcasing films set to entertain and inspire, provoke debate and tackle the urgent issues of our time.

Amanda Nevill, CEO, BFI said: “At this moment when the UK is adapting and reshaping our place in the world, the BFI London Film Festival really underlines the soft power of the art of film and showcases the dynamism of global exchange and partnership.

“All the BFI’s cultural programmes, from BFI Southbank to BFI Player, have sought to be an active champion at the heart of the global cinema story and this year’s LFF does this so powerfully with its incredibly rich and diverse programme and the international filmmaking community who love being here.”

Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director, commented: “In its 63rd year, BFI London Film Festival is one of the world’s great public film fests. And that greatness comes from the fact that we serve one of the most vibrant and international cities in the world and welcome voracious, adventurous and cineliterate audiences.

“While there are many talking points emerging from this year’s programme, a few really leap out: the strong instinct from filmmakers to explore urgent social and political issues through narrative and often through the use of genre; the striking emergence of a new generation of filmmakers exploding onto the international stage with startlingly bold, original and ambitious debuts; the continuing and welcome trend of increased gender balance in directing talent behind short film, first and second features.

“And while we’re so delighted to see work from 78 countries in the Festival, we also love welcoming a particularly exceptional new wave of UK based filmmakers with cracking first and second feature films in LFF.”

In total, 78 countries are represented across short films and features, with 40% of all films directed or co-directed by women. The festival continues to act as a launch pad for debut filmmakers, often supporting them throughout their career, demonstrated by returning Festival alumni in this year’s programme.

The 229 feature films screening include: 41 documentaries, 7 animations, 13 archive restorations and 7 artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 116 short films.

This year sees the return of Odeon’s iconic flagship cinema, the redesigned ODEON Luxe Leicester Square. Each night of the Festival, a Headline Gala will screen in flawless 4k projection with pitch-perfect Dolby® Atmos sound. Luxe recliners offer space and comfort, ensuring every seat in the 800-seater venue is the best in the house.

Films in Official Competition will be presented at the Vue West End and once again the festival’s beautiful 800-seat purpose-built venue Embankment Garden Cinema will be housed in the tranquil surroundings of Victoria Embankment Gardens.

Alongside the Galas, Special Presentations and films in Competition, the Festival will show a range of new world cinema in sections Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Experimenta and Family – which provide pathways for audiences to navigate the extensive programme.

Headline Galas

The American Express Gala is the European Premiere of Knives Out, a fresh take on a classic ‘whodunit’ written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper). A stylish tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie, Knives Out is a fun, modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect.

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. A witty delight for film fans, the film features a star-studded cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, Katherine Langford and Christopher Plummer.

The film will premiere on Tuesday, October 8 at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square.

The Mayor of London’s Gala sees Academy Award® winner Eddie Redmayne and Academy Award® nominee Felicity Jones reunite on screen, as aerial explorers in The Aeronauts. This heart-racing adventure story directed by long-time festival favourite Tom Harper (Wild Rose, LFF 2018) and written by Jack Thorne (The Scouting Book for Boys, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) captures the audacity and romance of the Victorian race into the air, with special effects that will transport you to the skies as we follow Amelia Wren (Jones) and James Glaisher (Redmayne) on mankind’s highest ever balloon voyage.

Starring Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks as beloved television entertainer Fred Rogers, the BFI Patrons’ Gala, A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood, sees director Marielle Heller return to the festival after premiering her second feature Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year.

The film is the perfect antidote for uneasy times and will melt the coldest of hearts. Matthew Rhys is excellent as magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (based on journalist Tom Junod) who is commissioned to write an article on the presenter. Regarding Rogers as a monolith of an unfashionable past, he asks: ‘Could anyone really be so good, so kind?’ But on spending more time with Rogers, Vogel begins to question his own misanthropic outlook.

British director Michael Winterbottom (The Trip, The Wedding Guest) brings us a sharp-tongued and timely satire in the Headline Gala European Premiere of Greed. The film stars Steve Coogan as Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie, a high-street retail tycoon who throws a lavish, Rome-themed 60th birthday bash to prove he’s still on top after a recent spate of fraud investigations.

As guests start arriving, including McCreadie’s ex-wife (Isla Fisher), his empire starts to fall apart at the seams. Featuring a vast ensemble cast that includes Shirley Henderson and David Mitchell, this entertaining and anarchic farce pits humour against the 1%.

Celebrated screenwriter William Nicholson (Les Miserables, Gladiator, Shadowlands) directs Annette Bening and Bill Nighy in the Headline Gala Hope Gap, a witty divorce drama that depicts a couple in their 60s as they face the end of their marriage after 29 years. Josh O’Connor plays their son, who discovers, on returning to his parents bohemian coastal home for the weekend, that his father has had enough and his bags are packed.

Shot with a ravishing sense of design and colour, making the most of its lush English coastline, this is an emotionally astute portrait of a marriage; of regrets uncovered, decisions made too late and the precariousness of hope.

Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit will receive its European Premiere in this exuberant and satirical Headline Gala. Jojo is a game, if somewhat inept, member of the Hitler Youth; his closest friend, an imaginary Adolf Hitler (Waititi, on hilarious form).

When he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace) in their house, Jojo must go to war with his own conscience. Tackling the ludicrousness of racism and nationalism, Waititi has also crafted a film of great emotional charge and tenderness. Amongst an illustrious cast of comic greats including Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant, Johansson dazzles on screen with one of her most charismatic performances.

This year’s American Airlines Gala, the UK Premiere of The King, stars Timothée Chalamet in David Michôd’s (Animal Kingdom, The Rover) visceral portrait of Henry V. The startling transformation undertaken by Hal in Shakespeare’s Henriad series, from the fun-loving prince into the all-powerful monarch, is one of literature’s most acute character studies.

Here, Michôd and co-screenwriter and star Joel Edgerton adapt those texts to explore how a reluctant monarch took the crown and found himself embroiled in the very same wars he despised his father for. The superbly talented supporting cast includes Lily-Rose Depp as Catherine, future Queen of England, Ben Mendelsohn as Henry IV and Robert Pattinson as a particularly spicy Dauphin, heir to the French throne.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in the UK Premiere of Le Mans ’66, a study of friendship that shaped 1960s motor racing, brimming with old-school Hollywood charm. Working from an excellent script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, director James Mangold (Logan) hooks you from the first scene and never lets go.

The May Fair Hotel Gala is Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach (While We’re Young, Frances Ha) and starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as an ill-fated couple who are married, have a son and run a theatre company together. Arguably Baumbach’s most personal film to date, Marriage Story charts the unravelling of their marriage, often with bitter hilarity in even the most desolate of scenes. Baumbach shoots on gorgeous 35mm with a 1.66 aspect ratio that foregrounds performance, often with startling long takes.

Festival and Strand Galas

Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s (Jackie) Ema is this year’s Festival Gala, starring the superb Gael García Bernal and featuring a spellbinding lead performance from newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo. In this character study of a beguiling woman ruled by heart and impulse, Larraín paints a picture of talented contemporary street/reggaeton dancer and teacher Ema. Larraín’s film intersperses explosive, intoxicating scenes of dance amidst dramatic moments that are fractured in time.

The Family Gala is the UK Premiere of Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman’s Abominable. This latest animated tale from Dreamworks is a fun, fast-paced action adventure about a little girl and her yeti companion in a race-against-time trip from China to the Himalayas. Boasting a compelling story and breathtaking visuals, Abominable is as beautiful as it is funny and exciting.

Kleber Mendonça Filho (Neighbouring Sounds) and Juliano Dornelles’ critically acclaimed Bacurau, winner of the Cannes Jury Prize 2019, features as this year’s Thrill Gala. This futuristic, sardonic and complex thriller explores the lives of misfits, mixed-heritage outsiders, whores, hippies and queers. They live in the margins in a dusty little town that 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 to rich European and American interests.

This year’s Laugh Gala, The Dude In Me from director Hyo-jin Kang, is a sassy body-swap comedy from South Korea, which tells the story of a ballsy gangster who accidentally possesses a timid schoolboy. Employing dry humour to undercut macho culture, the film finds fresh twists to a classic premise, resulting in an upbeat, poptastic entertainment that sustains its surprisingly sweet energy and laughs to the last.

Mirrah Foulkes’ Judy & Punch features as the Dare Gala. Prepare for an audaciously brilliant first feature, with Mia Wasikowska splendid in this fairy tale with a feminine twist. Foulkes creates an origin story of sorts, but one that re-imagines what might have happened if Judy decided not to take Punch’s incessant battery quite so meekly.

Acclaimed filmmaker Robert Eggers, the Sutherland Award-winning director of The Witch, returns to terrorise audiences with his masterful maritime shocker The Lighthouse, which is this year’s Cult Gala. Once seen, never forgotten, this hypnotic fusion of beauty and brutality is truly the stuff of nightmares, boasting extraordinary performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as a downtrodden lackey and baiting slave driver at the begrimed lighthouse where they’ve been assigned to work together for four weeks.

Official Secrets is filmmaker Gavin Hood’s (Eye in the Sky) sharp political thriller, about a key moment in the history of the Iraq conflict, opening as this year’s Debate Gala. It follows the story of Katharine Gun, an ordinary government contract worker faced with an extraordinary choice: in 2003, on the eve of the UK-US invasion of Iraq, Gun intercepted communications that revealed the UK was being asked to spy on UN Security Council Members to help influence votes sanctioning the Iraq invasion. Keira Knightley gives an excellent performance as Gun, alongside a strong ensemble cast that includes Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode and Rhys Ifans.

The Love Gala, in association with Malta Tourism Authority, is the UK Premiere of Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson’s effortlessly charming buddy movie, The Peanut Butter Falcon, about a young man in pursuit of his dreams. Zak, a restless 22-year old with Down’s Syndrome, is frustrated by the slow pace of life at his nursing home. Itching for some excitement, he hatches a plan to meet his idol, a pro wrestler named The Salt Water Redneck. Zak makes a break from his geriatric prison with his worried carer in hot pursuit.

This year’s Journey Gala is the thrillingly cinematic two-hander from Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener), The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as a pair of men tussling over the future of the Catholic Church. Disullusioned Jorge Bergoglio (Pryce) is a strong contender for the revered position of head of the Church but is relieved when Joseph Ratzinger (Hopkins) gets the top job and becomes Pope Benedict XVI. When the two men are brought together over one summer, their clash of ideologies make for a passionate debate.

The European Premiere of Western Stars sees global music legend Bruce Springsteen perform the entirety of his 19th studio release in this year’s Create Gala, co-directed by Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen. Resolved that he would not be taking the record on tour, Springsteen, collaborating with Zimny, opted instead to produce a feature-length film as a means of bringing the live experience to music lovers across the world. Set in the atmospheric surroundings of a majestic old barn, Springsteen’s elegiac ode to the American West blends lush orchestration with emotional tenderness. Springsteen (joined by wife Patti Scialfa, a small orchestra and a handful of accompanying musicians) reflects on the songs and ruminates on the loves, challenges and regrets he has faced in his own life.

Special Presentations

Eleven Special Presentations shine the spotlight on new work from major directors.

The eagerly awaited follw-up to Cory Finley’s explosive debut Thoroughbreds (LFF 2017) is his Bad Education, which screens as a Special Presentation in association with Empire. Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney star in this school-set political thriller based on the true story of an embezzlement scandal that rocked the New York school system.

One of the UK’s classiest cinematic storytellers, Roger Michell (Enduring Love, Le Week-End, Notting Hill) directs Blackbird*, a deeply moving and satisfying drama about the complexity of family love.

A glorious love letter to life and love in Mumbai, Bombay Rose, from feature debut director and screenwriter Gitanjali Rao, is both epic and personal. Rao’s exquisite animation allows characters to move seamlessly between real and imagined worlds, in this delicate and nuanced collection of stories.

Oscar-nominated Feras Fayyad’s (Last Men in Aleppo) essential film The Cave tells the harrowing story of an underground Syrian hospital and its extraordinary staff. Fayyad crafts an urgent and poignant testimony of the humanity of the hospital staff, who risk their lives to maintain the health and hopes of the people they treat. But the film is also a call to action – a demand for a response to this intolerable humanitarian crisis.

Prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike proves in First Love that he still has much to explore in the yakuza world, even after 2015’s anarchic, bloody vampire flick-crime movie mash-up Yakuza Apocalypse. This time employing a love story as a counterpoint to the intrigues of the Tokyo underworld, the film follows a young boxer on the brink of death as he falls in love with a woman caught in the crossfire between yakuza and triad gangs in a fight over stolen drugs.

Last seen at LFF with 2013’s widely adored girl-punk charmer We Are the Best!, Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson returns with his first foray into episodic television in Special Presentation Gosta. The focus of this loving satire is on its extremely kind title character, the nicest child psychologist in provincial Sweden. Affectionately lampooning youthful idealism, Moodysson’s empathetic storytelling transfers perfectly to the small screen.

A collaboration between two award-winning directors returning to the Festival, Anocha Suwichakornpong and Ben Rivers, the Experimenta Special Presentation is Krabi, 2562. The two merge their unique cinematic languages across reality and folklore in the eponymous tourist town, to create an absorbing and playful portrait of a people, place and time that makes for a series of haunting vignettes on the legacy of our age.

Featuring Britain’s biggest star of the 1920s, the ‘Queen of Happiness’ Betty Balfour, this year’s Archive Special Presentation is Love, Life And Laughter. The discovery of this cinematic treasure, lost for nearly a century, is a major event. Telling the story of a pair of working-class youngsters with big dreams, the film was rediscovered when an incomplete Dutch-language version was identified by archivists at EYE Filmmuseum in the Netherlands. This has been painstakingly pieced together by our restoration team with new English intertitles, bringing back to life a truly vivacious performance from Balfour.

Another Special Presentation is Our Ladies, a loving adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos by veteran director Michael Caton-Jones (The Jackal, Basic Instinct 2) and a perfect evocation of being young and riotously alive in mid-90s Scotland. Following a rebellious group of six teenage choirgirls on a day trip to a singing competition in Edinburgh, this unvarnished coming-of-age saga features brilliant central performances from young actors Eve Austin, Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham, Rona Morison and Marli Siu.

The BFI Flare Special Presentation in association with Sight & Sound is Portrait of a Lady on Fire; a female portrait painter falls in love with her subject in Céline Sciamma’s perfect new film. Whilst a devastatingly effective story of love set against impossible social and cultural barriers, it is also a film that redefines the construction of the gaze – of the protagonist, the camera, and the viewer – on the female form. It’s Céline Sciamma on fire.

The final Special Presentation is Rocks, a vibrant and hugely engaging portrait of female friendship and growing up in London, from director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane, Suffragette). Based on a script from award-winning playwright Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, the drama was developed through extensive workshops with the female cast, all of whom were discovered through casting sessions at schools. With magnetic performances across the board – particularly from Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali and Shaneigha-Monik Greyson – Rocks gives voice to London girls who have something to say.

Key filmmaking talent expected to attend the Festival’s Gala and Special Presentation screenings include…

Armando Iannucci, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Stephen Graham, Rian Johnson, Tom Harper, Marielle Heller, Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan, William Nicholson, Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Alfie Allen, Archie Yates, David Michôd, Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Tom Glynn-Carney, James Mangold, Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, David Heyman, Pablo Larraín, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, Mirrah Foulkes, Robert Eggers, Gavin Hood, Keira Knightley, Katharine Gun, Martin Bright, Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson, Zack Gottsagen, Fernando Meirelles, Jonathan Pryce, Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen, Cory Finley, Hugh Jackman, Roger Michell, Gitanjali Rao, Feras Fayyad, Jeremy Thomas, Lukas Moodysson, Ben Rivers, Michael Caton-Jones, Céline Sciamma, Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Sarah Gavron.

To find out more about this year’s festival and for additional films being screened, please visit the festival website

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