David Jenkins


63rd BFI London Film Festival line-up brings female directors to the fore

Céline Sciamma, Marielle Heller and Athina Rachel Tsangari are all heading to the capital this October.

We’re getting to the point where they don’t sell cakes big enough to house the amount of candles needed to celebrate the current age of the BFI London Film Festival. It’s 63 years young, and shows no signs of flagging, or wear and tear. Yet it’s never just the same old thing, as this year brings new filmmakers, new venues, new events, new political themes, and a new attempt to heard that multitude of cats that we like to call world cinema.

The charge for gender parity continues, with this year striking a 40/60 balance between female and male filmmakers (up two per cent from 2018). And this year’s line-up features films from such far flung and underrepresented locales as Bangladesh, Mongolia, Burkina Faso and Chad (there are, in fact, 79 countries represented). All the usual venues will be in play, so expect to be splitting your time between the red carpet glitz of Leicester Square, and the festival hub near Embankment and Waterloo, where pop-up venue Embankment Gardens will be returning.

So let’s kick things off with the big guns: the main galas. Already in the bag we had Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield – his own ribald take on Dickens with Dev Patel in the lead (a showcase of his immaculate comic timing, we hear). Then closing things out we have the biggest of the big dogs, Martin Scorsese, who will be accompanying his new one, The Irishman, for closing night detail. Then, the AMEX centrepiece gala, sees Rian Johnson returning from his trip to a galaxy far, far away with his new one, Knives Out, which looks to be his own, personal homage to the mystery novels of Agatha Christie.

Elsewhere in the mix we have David Michôd’s The King, his take on Shakespeare starring a bowl-cutted Timothée Chalamet, and there’s also Taika Waititi’s so-called “anti-hate satire” Jojo Rabbit, about a young boy in the Hitler Youth whose imaginary friend takes the form of the Führer himself. There’s petrolhead manna in James Mangold’s Le Mans ’66 (aka Ford vs Ferrari), with a buddy team-up of Matt Damon and Christian Male, while Tom Hanks seems well cast as the nicest man in TV, Fred Rogers, in Marielle Heller’s awards-tipped A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Greed sees the return of Michael Winterbottom and his partner in crime, Steve Coogan, in what looks like a bacchanalian take-down of the capitalist monster, and there’s also the return of Cory Finley, director of LWLies-endorsed Thoroughbreds, with his new comedy Bad Education. Cannes favourites The Lighthouse (by Robert Eggers), Bacurau (by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles) and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (by Céline Sciamma) will make an appearance, as will Venice competition hopefuls Marriage Story (by Noah Baumbach) and Ema (by Pablo Larraín).

Outside of the ritzy galas, word round the campfire is that this is a strong year for UK debut features. We will, of course, have to dive in and see a bunch of them before we can endorse that message, but on the slab for your consideration is Rose Glass’ Saint Maud, Nick Rollins’ Calm with Horses, Simon Bird’s Days of the Bagnold Summer and Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts. We are also unfeasibly excited to catch Fanny Lye Deliver’d, the very, very long-awaited third film from Thomas Clay, who wowed us with his film Soi Cowboy, over a decade ago in 2008. And definitely see you on the front row for Rose Plays Julie, the new film from the great Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy.

With this being a modern film festival, we must have some space in the programme for upcoming television works. This year there are two, and both are from celebrated feature directors: the first is Gösta, a episodic work by Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson, which has been billed a return to his comic early works Together and Show Me Love, and is about a child psychologist who is too nice. Also in the mix is Athina Rachel Tsangari’s eight-part series made for the BBC, Trigonometry, about a London couple struggling to pay their mortgage and so agree to take on a lodger.

We’d love to list every feature playing this year, but if we did you’d probably be reading this story deep into next week. So dive in to the full programme yourself and it’s very likely you’ll surface with a shiny pearl or two.

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival takes place between 2-13 October. Tickets will be available to purchase from 12 September at bfi.org.uk/lff

Published 29 Aug 2019

Tags: Armando Iannucci Athina Rachel Tsangari BFI Billie Piper Céline Sciamma Christine Molloy Cory Finley David Michôd James Mangold Joe Lawlor Kleber Mendonça Filho London Film Festival Lukas Moodysson Marielle Heller Michael Winterbottom Noah Baumbach Pablo Larraín Rian Johnson Taika Waititi Thomas Clay

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