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BFI 61st London Film Festival

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Opening Night Gala

This year’s Opening Night Gala is a moving true story of courage under profound difficulties, by first-time director and acclaimed British actor Andy Serkis.

Starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, this compelling directorial debut from Andy Serkis is an inspirational love story about two indomitable people who defy the odds and pave the way for change. When dapper and adventurous Robin Cavendish (Garfield) meets self-assured Diana (Foy) at a cricket match, a whirlwind romance ensues. Soon after their wedding, they set out for Nairobi where Robin works as a tea broker. But their new life together takes an abrupt turn when he contracts polio and is given only weeks to live. Determined that her husband’s life should not be restricted by medical and social prejudice, Diana ignores all advice and breaks him out of hospital. With the support of her twin brothers (both played by Tom Hollander) and friend Teddy (Hugh Bonneville), an Oxford professor who invents a wheelchair with a respirator attached, Diana creates an environment in which Robin can thrive and he goes on to lead a long and full life.

Based on the true story of producer Jonathan Cavendish’s parents, William Nicholson’s (Les Misérables, Gladiator) screenplay is emotionally and socially resonant, foregrounding the relationship between this courageous, witty and determined couple, while illuminating the broader impact they had on progressing mobility and access for people with disabilities. Serkis, who is world-renowned for his innovative and intensely physical performances, proves a similarly buoyant director, adopting a spirited and playful style that matches Cavendish’s infectious levity. Featuring terrific performances from its stellar cast – with Garfield and Foy especially vivid – Breathe was shot by three-time Oscar® winner Robert Richardson (JFK, The Aviator, Hugo), and its rich visual texture is enhanced by Nitin Sawhney’s emotive score. We are proud to be opening the 61st BFI London Film Festival with this powerful and affecting film that is also a beacon for remarkable British talent.

Clare Stewart

OPENING NIGHT GALA IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
American Express
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Closing Night Gala

Martin McDonagh’s third feature is a scabrously funny drama about the battle between a grieving mother and the local head of law enforcement.

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to Seven Psychopaths (LFF2012) is a characteristically pitch-black comedic drama featuring a blistering central performance from Frances McDormand. It’s been seven months since her daughter was murdered and foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails Mildred Hayes (McDormand) is fed up. Fuelled by grief and outraged that the investigation has gone quiet, she provokes the local police department with a series of messages plastered on three disused billboards outside her home town of Ebbing, Missouri. So begins a rapidly escalating and very public feud between Mildred and venerated community leader and family man, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). The situation is exacerbated when blundering side-kick, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) gets involved. Just as unhinged as Mildred, but with a significantly lower IQ, Dixon’s penchant for violence is stoked by his leaden, borderline psychotic mother to whom he is unhealthily attached. McDonagh’s screenplays are consistently audacious and his sleight-of-hand here is to make the victim (or more accurately, the victim’s mother), a righteous, nasty woman who is just as hell-bent on rebuffing sympathy as she is on getting justice.

Like many of McDonagh’s best and most profane characters, Mildred has a fibrous moral code. Her indignant blustering is frequently triggered by social injustice and small-town bigotry – ‘it seems to me that the police department is too busy torturing black folks to solve actual crime’ – and her increasingly reckless actions are prompted by a deep-seated sense of guilt and regret. McDonagh’s latest exploration of the American psyche is by turns riotously funny and deeply sobering, cutting to the quick of social division and tearing to shreds – like the tattered billboards that Mildred papers over – the all-American dreaminess of the Capra-esque small town. A universally splendid cast is rounded out by Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Clarke Peters and Caleb Landry Jones.

Clare Stewart
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Headline Galas

Join us on the red carpet for our Opening Night, Closing Night and Headline Galas.
People who added this item 151 Average listal rating (96 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.8
AMERICAN EXPRESS® GALA

Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in this playful true story of the 1970s gender wars played out on the tennis court, while the world watches.

The legendary 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) takes centre court in this rousing, playful and funny film from Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine). The sexual revolution is in full swing and Billie Jean King is number one, but why won’t the US Tennis Association respond to her call for gender equality? Together with the founder of World Tennis magazine Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), she sets forth to lobby the Board, riled by the blatant discrepancy between the prize money offered to male and female players (sound familiar?). Faced with mocking resistance from the blokes in power, the women establish an alternative tournament (now the WTA). Initially buoyed by the success of their venture and the camaraderie of her fellow players, Billie Jean is soon thrown off her game by a blossoming romance with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), the arrival of title contender Margaret Court and an unexpected late night call from one-time men’s champ, Bobby Riggs.

A seasoned hustler with a gambling habit and a wife (Elisabeth Shue) who is fast running out of patience, Riggs pitches a challenge match that King ultimately can’t resist – ‘male chauvinist pig versus hairy legged feminist!’. Simon Beaufoy’s (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty) agile screenplay mines the rich comic potential of this central rivalry while honouring the spirit, vulnerability and resilience of Billie Jean, whose off-court battle to come to terms with her own sexuality is at the pulsating heart of the story. Stone is radiant as the player whose impact on gender politics was as powerful as her legendary forehand, while Faris and Dayton deliver aces with another sprightly, enjoyably rebellious film that relishes the fallibility of its characters, as much as their triumphs and serves as an all too timely reminder of how far we still have to go.

Clare Stewart
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THE MAYOR OF LONDON’S GALA

A rapturous study in passion and desire from the director of I Am Love and A Bigger Splash.

In every way as languorous and seductive as its North Italian setting, Luca Guadagnino’s (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) adaptation of André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel is a sun-kissed, cinematic ode to the ecstasy and exquisite pain of first love. Timothée Chalamet is riveting 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 physical embodiment of ancient Greco-Roman beauty, Oliver is an all-American doctoral student on a 6-week research trip working with Elio’s father, an antiquities professor. While Oliver slips effortlessly into the heady rhythm of the Italian summer – al fresco dining, bicycle rides and midnight swims – Elio’s casual flirtation with local girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel) is soon eclipsed by a more sensual, volatile attraction. From Elio’s renditions of a Bach capriccio to The Psychedelic Furs’ anthemic Love My Way, this is a film that luxuriates in classical art, poetry and music as much as it relishes the candy-coloured new romance of its early 80s setting. Guadagnino, working from a screenplay by James Ivory, lingers on fleeting moments of desire, jealousy and affirmation, giving a sublime depth to Elio’s transcendent and ravishingly queer awakening.

Clare Stewart
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People who added this item 151 Average listal rating (95 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 5.7
BFI PATRONS’ GALA

Smaller doesn’t mean simpler, as Alexander Payne points out in this hilarious satire that manages to keep the laugh rate high while engaging with a wealth of topical issues.

Alexander Payne (Nebraska, LFF2014) puts climate change, mobility and immigration under the microscope in this utterly bewitching satire starring Matt Damon. In a future that could very well be right now, Norwegian scientists discover a method for shrinking people to pocket-size as part of a grand design to limit humanity’s footprint and save the world. Five years later, a thriving parallel ‘small’ economy has evolved, complete with lifestyle choices and luxury miniature communities. Beige, work-a-day Paul Safranek (Damon) wants to scale-up his options by sizing-down, but things begin to go awry when wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) gets cold feet. Payne and regular collaborator Jim Taylor started work on Downsizing’s wildly inventive screenplay between the making of Sideways (LFF2004) and The Descendants (LFF2011), and this lengthy gestation has seen its underlying topicality become even more urgent and relevant. Immediately shedding its sci-fi skin – just as its protagonists must discard hair and teeth to become small – this is precision, high-concept filmmaking that ripples with wry observational humour and seamlessly integrates its visual effects. Damon, superb as the bewildered everyman, is supported by an appropriately florid Christoph Waltz and a captivating Hong Chau, playing an illegal immigrant who arrives in a parcel.

Clare Stewart
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THE MAY FAIR HOTEL GALA

The true story of the love affair between Gloria Grahame and young, aspiring actor Peter Turner, produced by the Bond franchise’s Barbara Broccoli.

Annette Bening and Jamie Bell vividly bring to the screen the intense romance between Hollywood icon Gloria Grahame and her much younger lover. In 1981, decades after she rose to fame in Hollywood, the Academy Award®-winning star of The Big Heat, In a Lonely Place and The Bad and the Beautiful, Grahame (Bening) is treading the boards in a modest theatre production when she collapses in a Lancaster hotel. Her health failing, she reaches out to former lover, Liverpudlian actor Peter Turner (Bell). When Peter takes her back to his family home, to the care of his sympathetic mother (Julie Walters), memories of their grand affair soon come flooding back. Adapted from Turner’s own memoir, Paul McGuigan’s consummate study of a truly extraordinary relationship is filled with humour, passion and insight, effortlessly capturing the connection, both emotional and physical, between the pair. Flying dazzlingly in the face of the ‘fading star’ epithet, Bening eloquently portrays a woman who will not compromise her professional ambitions or her desire for personal happiness. And Bell, revelatory in the role, is more than a perfect match in this bracingly romantic and irresistibly sexy love story.

Clare Stewart
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R C Sherriff’s acclaimed First World War drama reaches the screen in this all-star adaptation, directed by Saul Dibb (Bullet Boy).

Men await an attack in the trenches of the First World War in this outstanding, intensely claustrophobic adaption of R C Sherriff’s 1928 play. Monday, 18 March 1918. C Company, led by Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin) is about to take its posting on the front line. Intelligence suggests an imminent German attack and having been all but abandoned by the Commanding Officers, Stanhope knows there is little chance of survival. Trench supplies and munitions are depleted, as is the troop’s morale. In these appalling conditions, each man’s character is laid bare. An adroit cast offer performances of great depth and texture, from Paul Bettany’s Osborne, the very definition of the English ‘stiff upper lip’, to Claflin’s Stanhope, whose own shredded nerves are steeled with alcohol. But the shattered heart of the film is Asa Butterfield as Raleigh – the tender new recruit who ardently requested a placement in order to be close to Stanhope, his sister’s fiancé. Saul Dibb’s taut, confident direction is dread-inducing from the start – set in the cramped, stifling spaces of the trenches, foregrounding the tense personal dramas in Simon Reade’s lean screenplay. Journey’s End brings a fresh and powerful sense of this terrible war’s cost to a generation.

Tricia Tuttle
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For those who loved the biting satire of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, he returns with another electrifying critique of bourgeois values.

Interlacing elements of Greek tragedy, surrealism and absurdist horror, Yorgos Lanthimos’ follow-up to The Lobster (LFF2015) is a deliciously twisted and slyly macabre morality tale. Steven (Colin Farrell) is a wealthy cardiothoracic surgeon who lives a harmonious existence with his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two children Kim and Bob. Unbeknownst to his magazine-perfect family, Steven has formed an odd friendship with fatherless teenager Martin, to whom he brings gifts and offers financial support. When Steven decides to introduce Martin to his unsuspecting family, the sinister intentions of this strange young man become frighteningly clear. Shot with cool precision by cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, the film exudes a clinical calm that is in keeping with Steven and Anna’s professions, but very much at odds with their mounting domestic horrors. The stellar cast delivers unnerving, deliciously off-kilter performances with young Irish actor Barry Keoghan a revelation as the malevolent interloper. The pitch-black script by Lanthimos and regular collaborator Efthimis Filippou (who jointly won the best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival) shifts allegiances with a slipperiness that belies the film’s relentless, irreversible story logic. A wickedly perverse riff on the myth of Iphigenia, Steven too will discover that all actions have consequences.

Clare Stewart
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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (30 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 6.9
Richard Linklater’s ruminative comedy finds three men accepting that life isn’t quite what it used to be.

Richard Linklater’s knowing tribute to Hal Ashby’s 1973 classic The Last Detail is both a droll, enjoyably shambolic road movie and a meditation on the futility of war. It’s 2003 and Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) walks into a roadside dive looking for Sal (Bryan Cranston), whom he hasn’t seen since they served in the Vietnam War. A charming loudmouth with a flagrant disregard for authority, Sal is soon enlisted in Doc’s get-the-gang-back-together quest. When they track down Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), they discover he has traded one uniform for another and is now a happily married preacher. The sobering reason for this reunion is revealed when Doc asks for help burying his own son who has returned from Iraq in a casket. Alternately serious and comedic, Linklater’s screenplay was co-written with author Darryl Ponicsan, adapting his 2005 novel – itself a sequel to the book on which Ashby’s film was based. But both the filmmaking and the charismatic cast ensure this film stands very much on its own. Linklater’s ongoing fascination with duration, so materially imbedded in Boyhood, filters through between unspoken lines about the changing nature of warfare, the kind of men these veterans have become and their sense of responsibility to the past.

Clare Stewart
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People who added this item 90 Average listal rating (60 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
ROYAL BANK OF CANADA GALA

Director Dee Rees (Pariah) delivers a searing racial drama about two families – one white, one black – set in the Deep South in the 1940s.

The friendship of two Second World War veterans ignites racial tension in Dee Rees’ majestic epic about two families in the Deep South. Pariah marked Rees as a filmmaker of uncompromising originality and vision; Mudbound retains that distinct voice within a complex narrative about what sets us apart, and perhaps more so, what we all share. Adapting Hillary Jordan’s novel, Rees weaves together multiple threads of two family histories: white farmers the McAllans and the Jacksons, black sharecroppers who lease a plot on the McAllans’ land. Though a genuine ensemble of consistently impressive performances, Laura’s (Carey Mulligan) story spurs the plot. With spinsterhood looming, despite being attracted to his debonair brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), Laura agrees to marry Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke), and he soon moves the family to the mud-caked Mississippi Delta. Meanwhile, Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his wife Florence (a transformed Mary J Blige) struggle to make small gains sharecropping when the McAllans take their lease. As a post-war comradeship develops between Jamie and the Jacksons’ eldest son, distinguished war hero Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), tensions with bitterly racist McAllan patriarch, Pappy erupt into violence. Rees skilfully draws these stories together, reflecting on how bigotry and intolerance serves no one – a message with fresh relevance given the rise of an emboldened far right in America.

Tricia Tuttle
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AMERICAN AIRLINES GALA

Master of things that go bump in the night, Guillermo del Toro spins the compelling tale of friendship between a mute woman and an amphibious creature.

Drawing on classic 1950s sci-fi B-movies and the on-going fascination with Area 51 conspiracy theories, Guillermo del Toro’s sprightliest tale of the inexplicable is an old-school cinematic joy. At the height of the Cold War, in a secret US laboratory, a young, mute woman begins to communicate with a strange, aquatic creature. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), whose only friends are her gay artist neighbour (Richard Jenkins) and a fellow cleaner (Octavia Spencer), is alarmed by the behaviour of research head Strickland (a deliciously cruel Michael Shannon), who sees the creature as nothing more than an oversized lab rat. A fellow scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg) of dubious connections is decidedly more curious, especially when he sees a bond forming between Elisa and the creature. Intertwining sci-fi, horror and gothic romance to spellbinding effect, del Toro’s singular vision is enhanced by Dan Laustsen’s (Crimson Peak) vivid cinematography and Alexandre Desplat’s hypnotic score, which runs the gamut from high-wire thrills to the stirringly romantic. Hawkins, always the most empathetic of actors, is a marvel and she ensures that Elisa’s fierce desire to fight for what’s right never eclipses her sense of innocence. Love takes many shape-shifting forms and this intoxicating film is a pure celebration of tolerance and human connection.

Clare Stewart
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Lynne Ramsay journeys with Joaquin Phoenix into the mind of an ex-soldier gun-for-hire whose own demons are as brutal as the actions of his adversaries.

Lynne Ramsay’s stark inversion of the noir thriller is a devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse, anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire, specialising in saving victims from child sex rings and living at home with his ailing mother. When Nina, a US Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl (Ekaterina Samsonov is hauntingly good). Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth. Working from Jonathan Ames’ 2013 novel, Ramsay (who jointly won the best screenplay award in Cannes) is more concerned with the psyche of her unhinged protagonist than she is with the action, and she eschews the spoken word in favour of Phoenix’s eloquent, line-ravaged face. Reuniting several of her key collaborators on We Need to Talk About Kevin (Best Film, LFF2011), her taut, syncopated cinema is intensified by Jonny Greenwood’s pulsating score, Thomas Townend’s expressive camerawork and razor-sharp editing from Joe Bini who rejects exploitation, cutting away from the action rather than to it.

Clare Stewart
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Special Presentations

Join us for our BFI Flare, Documentary, Experimenta, LFF CONNECTS, and Sight & Sound Special Presentations.
People who added this item 9 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.4
Dark River (2017)
One of contemporary British cinema's most distinctive filmmakers, Clio Barnard follows The Selfish Giant and The Arbor with this searing and eloquent Yorkshire set drama exploring the fragility of familial relationships.

Inspired by Rose Tremain's novel Trespass, Dark River follows two siblings as they struggle to come to terms with their inheritance, following the death of their Father. Fiercely holding on to a promise made long-ago, independently-minded Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns home for the first time in 15 years to claim family farm. Her grieving brother Joe (Mark Stanley) has spent years looking after their father (Sean Bean) and has scarcely kept the property afloat. Estranged for so long they can barely communicate, Alice soon incurs her brother's wrath when she claims legal tenancy. As tensions mount, troubling memories surface and the real reason for her prolonged absence is revealed. Barnard's expressive use of landscape and Adriano Goldman's haunting camerawork amplify two commanding performances, Wilson's displaying all the power and vulnerability so evident in her recent TV (The Affair) and stage work (Hedda Gabler), with Stanley (Game of Thrones) equally compelling as a man who has squandered his life in denial of the past.

Clare Stewart
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BFI FLARE SPECIAL PRESENTATION

A transwoman’s quest for a little respect gives us one of 2017’s standout performances in this invigorating Chilean drama from Sebastián Lelio (Gloria).

When her lover Orlando dies suddenly one night, Marina (Daniela Vega) is left in a state of shock. But nothing can prepare her for what follows. Still raw with grief, the singer and waitress must navigate the horrors of recounting the night to Orlando’s family, whose responses to the fact that she’s a transwoman range from frosty to scabrous and even hostile. It seems love and cohabitation count for little and Marina must fight for her rights, her home and even custody of her dog, while the police only offer a new set of humiliations. Director Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria (LFF2013) gave us the ultimate free-spirited 50-something woman. Now, working with filmmaker-producers Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann) and Pablo Larraín (Jackie), Lelio proves himself a successor to Almodóvar as an explorer of female-centred, emotionally intelligent terrain, which also celebrates the tender and downright sexy relationship that Marina and Orlando shared. Marina, thanks to Vega’s absolute knockout performance, is a vision of resistance: making her defiant way through the aftermath, battling transphobia and getting shit done. This avowedly queer provocation is essential arthouse cinema and likely to tear the roof off the LFF.

Kate Taylor
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6
DOCUMENTARY SPECIAL PRESENTATION

Greg Barker’s excellent observational documentary examines, with great intimacy, the final year in Obama’s foreign policy administration as an election looms.

The final, momentous year of the Obama administration is documented with extraordinary intimacy by Greg Barker, whose Manhunt screened in the LFF2013 Documentary Competition. With an election looming, The Final Year observes the administration’s key players in foreign policy as they work to cement their gains in international relations, painstakingly negotiated over two terms. Barker gained unprecedented access to four central figures: Secretary of State John Kerry; Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations; Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, and Barack Obama himself. What emerges is a portrait of an administration keen to secure its legacy, whether it’s climate change or Syria. Or a concerted attempt to shift the perception of America’s approach to foreign policy, from one enforced by military might to one of engagement, diplomacy and consensus. The urgency of their international work is juxtaposed against the turmoil of an election at home, which shifted from a foregone conclusion to the gradual realisation of just how different the incoming administration was likely to be. A tense and rich work that offers insight into the mechanisms of international relations, The Final Year is also a sobering look at how diplomacy is far tougher than bellicosity.

Tricia Tuttle
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Michael Haneke’s portrait of a dysfunctional bourgeois Calais family offers a potted summary – and bracingly intelligent, partly satirical update – on themes from his previous films.

Michael Haneke ingeniously reworks and updates the enduringly relevant themes of all his previous films in one brief, brilliant, sometimes slyly satirical gem. Though set in Calais, Happy End never shows ‘the Jungle’, focusing instead on a construction dynasty seemingly blind to the unfortunates across town. Anne (Huppert) oversees the business now that her embittered father Georges (Trintignant) is unable to cope; her doctor brother Thomas (Kassovitz), meanwhile, is getting reacquainted with his teenage daughter since his ex-wife’s overdose. Indeed, everyone in the family seems frustrated or lonely… Haneke’s dark, sardonic yet quietly compassionate picture of contemporary life as experienced by complacently well-off Europeans is as formally inventive, morally relevant and psychologically astute as ever, yet its wholly compelling drama is here leavened by bracing moments of absurdist humour. The refugees and poor? Seldom seen, constantly there… Superbly performed, this is formidably intelligent filmmaking.

Geoff Andrew
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EXPERIMENTA SPECIAL PRESENTATION

An exiled Iranian woman begins making a film about ‘the voice of Egypt’, Oum Kulthum, who was loved by the people and manipulated by politicians.

With intricate storytelling and exquisite imagery, Iranian artist Shirin Neshat returns with a film-within-a-film about Oum Kulthum, ‘the voice of Egypt’, widely considered the Arab world’s greatest vocalist. Kulthum embodies intense meaning for director Neshat, as a Muslim woman artist whose talent enabled her to transcend the barriers of gender, religion, politics and nation. Embraced by royalty and revolutionaries alike, as well as loved by ordinary Egyptians, Kulthum’s career was bound up in the development of Egypt as a post-colonial country. In this drama, her multi-faceted legacy is explored by exiled Iranian woman director and cultural outsider Mitra, who is striving to make a biopic about the international icon. Her dilemmas mirror those of her subject as she learns about the sacrifices Oum has made to succeed in a male dominated world. In turn, Mitra is creating another uneasy female star in Ghada, the non-professional actor she has found to play the role and she begins to interpret her own life and art through her imaginative relationship with the legendary singer. Rare archive material is combined with sumptuous recreations of Oum’s key performances to build a multi-layered depiction of history, politics and the struggle for artistic expression.

Helen de Witt
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People who added this item 154 Average listal rating (104 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8.6
LFF CONNECTS SPECIAL PRESENTATION

David Fincher returns to television with a Zodiac-style police procedural, based on the men who first coined the phrase ‘serial killer’.

Son of Sam is on the cover of TIME Magazine, Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ is on the airwaves and FBI Agent Holden Ford is troubled. Policing used to be a matter of establishing the three basics; motive, means, opportunity. But it’s the late-1970s and politically unstable times can produce chaos. A new breed of killers have emerged whose motives are ambiguous. Holden’s (Jonathan Groff) hunger for innovation leads him to Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), a seasoned if skeptical agent of the Behavioral Science Unit. Together they tour regional police stations, like a pair of criminal psychology-totin’ Bible salesmen, preaching Freud to officers whose approaches are resolutely Old Testament. Their cross-country motel-safari soon gives them a glimpse into the depths of the violent and sexually depraved crime that cops are ill-equipped to deal with. A new method is called for, but it will bring them unsettlingly close to murderous minds. David Fincher returns to episodic drama, with this sharply scripted Zodiac-style procedural, based on the men who first coined the phrase ‘serial killer’. As the opening two episodes show us, this is invigorating, witty and meticulous storytelling, from the typography to the impeccable music cues. Crime drama at its most addictive.

Kate Taylor
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People who added this item 53 Average listal rating (21 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.7
Following some unexpected revelations, a celebration quickly takes a turn for the worse in Sally Potter's razor-sharp new comedy.

A brilliant ensemble cast get their teeth stuck into Britain’s political elite in Sally Potter’s biting and supremely entertaining satire. Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just been appointed Shadow Minister for Health and has invited some friends around to celebrate. Her dazed husband (Timothy Spall) seems happy enough to see razor-tongued April (Patricia Clarkson), but struggles to check his intolerance of flagrant new-ager Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). Next to arrive are Martha (Cherry Jones), described by April as ‘a first-class lesbian and a second-rate thinker’, and her wife Jinny (Emily Mortimer), but things seriously derail when unhinged and chemically-enhanced banker Tom (Cillian Murphy) bursts in looking for his wife. Dinner always appears to be on the cusp of being served but never quite arrives. As in Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, the guests remain hungry and volatile. The film, however, serves up a full course of character dissections, with Potter’s spit-fire dialogue and Aleksei Rodionov’s prowling camera revealing much more than the individual ambitions and petty grievances of the guests. Written in the lead-up to the 2015 British General Election, Potter’s potent, funny and deliciously nasty film relishes stripping bare characters who fail ‘to keep to their own party-line of what is morally right and politically left’.

Clare Stewart
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People who added this item 27 Average listal rating (18 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.8
A political western-cum-existentialist epic from the one of Latin America’s boldest filmmakers, Zama offers an incisive and visually arresting examination of the abuses of colonialism.

For her fourth feature, Lucrecia Martel swaps her native Salta for the epic landscape of a late 18th century colonial empire ruled over by a distant Spain. A blistering adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 existential novel, Zama charts the progressive decline of a minor officer and Magistrate of the Spanish Crown. Don Diego de Zama (an extraordinary performance by Daniel Giménez Cacho) is desperate to relocate from his remote regional office to the city where his wife and children live. A letter of recommendation from the Governor, which is required for such moves, seems endlessly postponed and Zama finds himself increasingly side-lined in a world where the Spanish-born élite mismanage the running of their protectorates. Martel’s assured style balances the personal and the political, as Zama’s frustrations and failings are viewed through the prism of the broader canvas of Spain’s imperialist grip across the Americas. With its richly layered sound design, visuals that accentuate the grotesque and absurd, and a narrative whose personal story becomes a microcosm of universal malaise, Zama is an audacious, intense and often disarming experience. This disturbing yet intoxicating cinematic journey takes you deep into the darker recesses of the soul.

Maria Delgado
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Strand Galas

Red carpet galas from our themed strands: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Family, and Treasures.
DARE GALA

François Ozon has done the maths. Double the danger = double the fun.

France’s former enfant terrible François Ozon returns to the Festival with a deliciously duplicitous tale of psychoanalysis and seduction. Channelling the spirits of Hitchcock and De Palma at their naughtiest, Ozon’s frisky new thriller tells the story of Chloé, a former model plagued by undiagnosed stomach pains. Advised her condition could be psychosomatic, she consults a handsome psychiatrist named Paul, with whom she promptly embarks on a romantic relationship. But Chloé’s new beau is a mysterious fellow, revealing little about his past. When she stumbles across the information that Paul has a twin, she secretly tracks him down, only to discover that this mysterious sibling is also a psychoanalyst. Desperate to uncover the truth, Chloé books herself in for a session. But it is not long before she realises the two brothers take a very different approach to therapy. Boasting images so lascivious they would make Sigmund Freud blush, Ozon’s provocative, playfully campy adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel Lives of the Twins is a wickedly twisted enigma, reminiscent of the director’s earlier thrillers Criminal Lovers and Swimming Pool. At once coolly clinical and palpably erotic, this heady dose of cinephilic fetishism is guaranteed to get you going, whatever your preference.

Michael Blyth
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FAMILY GALA

This hilarious trio of farmyard tales features some of the wisest cracking animals that you ever could hope to meet.

This outstanding, laugh-a-minute animation from the team behind Ernest & Celestine (LFF2012, Family Gala) is guaranteed to appeal to adults as much as it will children. This charming trio of farmyard tales introduces us to a world of animals with identity issues, who are unable to fit into traditional roles in the pecking order and are constantly trying to outsmart each other. ‘A Baby to Deliver’ sees a rabbit, pig and duck delivering a new-born baby for a stork, only to discover what a huge responsibility it is. In ‘The Big Bad Fox’, the eponymous villain’s plan to steal eggs backfires when his dinner – the newly hatched baby chicks – believe he is their mother. And in ‘The Perfect Christmas’, animals take on a frantic mission to find a new Santa Claus. Benjamin Renner adapts his own comic book for the big screen, with lovingly crafted, hand-drawn animation bringing his illustrations gloriously to life. If you’re expecting these farmyard animals to be cute and cuddly, think again. These are fast-talking, wise-cracking, witty characters. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales will warm your heart as it makes you laugh out loud.

Justin Johnson
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THRILL GALA

Cult favourite Takashi Miike slices and slashes his way through this stunning swordplay adventure, the 100th title in the director’s extraordinary body of work.

In the Shogunate era, a samurai cursed with immortal life teams up with a young girl to avenge the murder of her parents. While fellow exploitation cinema connoisseur Quentin Tarantino has mooted his retirement from filmmaking, Japan’s Takashi Miike, just two years Tarantino’s senior, has passed triple figures as director. Though he has made several more since, Blade of the Immortal, based on the famous manga series by Hiroaki Samura, has the distinction of being Miike’s 100th feature. The speed of the film’s production notwithstanding, this is lean and mean Miike – a filmmaker at his controlled and bloody best. Takuya Kimura stars as Manji, a samurai saved by a witch following a vicious battle. She feeds him sacred bloodworms – fantastical creatures that rejoin severed limbs, heal gaping wounds and generally make it impossible for him to die. Haunted by the death of his sister, Manji sees a chance for redemption when he meets a young girl whose parents have been murdered. The culprits, a team of master swordsmen, come from the Ittō-ryū, a cruel school of fighting that demands victory by any means necessary. One by one, Manji tracks them down in this savage and inventive action thriller that makes an excellent companion piece to Miike’s earlier 13 Assassins.

Damon Wise
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People who added this item 207 Average listal rating (133 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.6
FESTIVAL GALA

Sean Baker follows his incredible Tangerine with another visionary take on the wild ups and dangerous downs of life in America’s underbelly.

That The Little Rascals is an inspiration for Sean Baker’s magical, magnificent and madcap follow-up to Tangerine (LFF2015) makes perfect sense when you see this story of childhood, set against the backdrop of America’s failed economy. Six-year-old Moonee (the astonishingly good Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) lives with her mother and other castaways from the American dream in a candy-floss-coloured roadside motel in Orlando. Disney World is just up the road, but their budget dayglow home is no plush hotel resort. Halley, Moonee’s mother, is only just an adult herself. More of an incorrigible older sister than a parent, she gets a kick out of juvenile hijinks, with utter disregard for their consequences. Meanwhile, nothing stops her daughter’s irrepressible sense of adventure; always unsupervised, Moonee roams the grounds with her gang, hustling change for ice creams, hosting spitting contests and teasing tolerant motel manager Bobby (a sublime Willem Dafoe) to distraction. The genius of Baker’s film is how it runs along two parallel tracks. Narrated from a child’s-eye view, this is a marvellous world of play and possibility. But adult viewers witnessing Halley’s life will suspect what’s coming for Moonee. That this dazzling, precocious girl is a lightning rod of wayward charm makes the inevitable so much harder to bear. The Florida Project is an ingenious, instant classic about childhood innocence.

Tricia Tuttle
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People who added this item 14 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
Foxtrot (2017)
DEBATE GALA

Expanding from the claustrophobic confines of his award-winning Lebanon, Samuel Maoz presents a provocative portrait of the mind-set of generations subject to Israeli military conscription.

One to savour on the biggest screen, Foxtrot highlights the absurdities of conscripted military service, examines the relationship between a father and his remote son, and sees a couple grapple with every parent’s worst nightmare. Michael and Daphna Feldmann (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler) have barely begun to accept the horrific news about their son, when they discover that all is not what it seems. Meanwhile, teenage Israeli soldiers fight boredom at a military checkpoint, placing bets on whether their dilapidated barrack is sinking into the mud. After winning Venice’s Golden Lion with his exceptional and controversial Lebanon, Samuel Maoz once again contemplates the reality-altering nature of militarised life. Pulling back from the extreme proximity of his previous film (entirely set within a tank), Maoz adopts a wider perspective with Foxtrot, examining the impact of regimented behaviour – whether it’s an Israeli family living an ordered middle-class city life, young people asked to control who comes and goes at a border, or military personnel blindly following protocol. Amidst this, Maoz reflects on a son’s shifting perception of his father (with Lior Ashkenazi superbly conveying an aging father’s chiselled vulnerability). Giora Bejach’s cinematography finds thrilling ways to convey meaning with every precise shot, ensuring that Foxtrot combines a breathtaking cinematic experience with a resonant reflection on modern Israeli life.

Tricia Tuttle
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LAUGH GALA

Master of the urban comedy drama, Noah Baumbach presents a study of a dysfunctional family par excellence, ruled over by Dustin Hoffman’s shambolic patriarch.

Dustin Hoffman plays an irascible septuagenarian patriarch in Noah Baumbach’s stingingly funny comedy about a screwed-up New York family. To suggest that sculptor Harold Meyerowitz (Hoffman) is a model father would be pushing it. His adult children, like his artistic career, have not exactly met his expectations, but he has succeeded in selling them a rather delusional version of his own achievements. His eldest son Danny (Adam Sandler) is schlumping through life, still noodling original compositions on the family piano while his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) seems to have made a singular profession of receding into the background. Only Matthew (Ben Stiller), a high-octane West Coast money-man has acquired the trappings of success, but not the kind favoured by Harold and his booze-addled bohemian fourth wife Maureen (Emma Thompson). It’s dysfunction as usual until a swift blow to the head puts Harold in hospital and everyone has to take stock. The stellar cast are uniformly excellent, clearly relishing the rippling dialogue and vivid character studies. Through the madcap antics of this neurotic, failure-obsessed clan, Baumbach (Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale, When We Were Young) slyly surfaces bigger questions about how to value family and the meaning of success.

Clare Stewart
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People who added this item 19 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.2
LOVE GALA

Be warned – this film will break your heart.

In the early 1960s, a young couple on their honeymoon struggle to physically connect in this sensitive adaptation of Ian McEwan’s acclaimed short novel. As Florence and Edward settle down for their first dinner as a married couple, a nervous energy fills the air. But while it might appear the fledgling husband and wife are suffering from wedding night jitters, as the evening unfolds it becomes apparent something else is creating a divide. Awkwardly grasping for the connection they know they share, the pair recall moments from their lives, both together and apart, as the inevitability of physical intimacy looms ever-closer. Impeccably adapted for the screen by McEwan himself, Dominic Cooke’s quietly heart-breaking debut is a work of subtle restraint, capturing the intricacies of the source material with grace and delicacy. As ever, Saoirse Ronan shines as the hesitant young bride, ably supported by rising star Billy Howle, both of whom express so much, even when their characters struggle to find the words. And indeed, for a film in which many emotions remain unspoken, and countless feelings are left unsaid, this melancholic love story speaks profoundly about the fragility of human relationships and the destructive nature of silence.

Michael Blyth
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People who added this item 25 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.8
CREATE GALA

From the Oscar-winning director of The Artist, a brilliantly realised portrait of France’s maestro director Jean-Luc Godard spiralling into philosophical and romantic crisis.

Michel Hazanavicius’ biopic of French cinema’s most notorious director, Jean-Luc Godard, is an audacious feat of multi-layered storytelling. Adapted from the autobiographical novel Un an après by actor Anne Wiazemsky, Redoubtable portrays her marriage to Godard and its unravelling in the midst of his spectacular philosophical and artistic meltdown during the volatile moment of national protest in 1968. Hazanavicius demonstrates some serious directorial prowess by taking us on a journey that begins with a jaunty, lightly comedic tone, set at the outset of their marriage. There is an abundance of playful Godardian cinematic flourishes that hit the mark as both parody and loving tribute to the great innovator. But then the tone shifts to something darker and more emotive as Godard is caught up in the protest movement and follows a nihilistic path that sees him lose touch with his audience and reject his wife. With outstanding production design that brilliantly conjures up 1968 France and eager, convincing performances from Louis Garrel as the hawkish, pompous Godard and Stacy Martin as the mesmerising, talented Wiazemsky, there is much to enjoy in this political, philosophical and biographical roller coaster.

Stuart Brown
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People who added this item 2 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 5 IMDB Rating 7.3
Shiraz (1928)
ARCHIVE GALA

The world premiere of Anoushka Shankar’s new score for Shiraz, a spectacular silent film romance, filmed entirely in India.

his epic silent film is a ravishing, romantic tale of the story behind one of the world’s most iconic structures: the Taj Mahal. Shiraz is based on the story of the 17th century Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, his queen and the building of the world’s most beautiful monument to love, the Taj Mahal. Shot entirely on location in India, it features lavish costumes and gorgeous settings, including the extraordinary fort at Agra. This remarkable UK-Indian-German co-production was wholly Indian in conception: the brainchild of star and producer Himansu Rai, based on a play by Niranjan Pal and performed by an all-Indian cast. Rai himself plays humble potter Shiraz, who follows his childhood sweetheart Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau) when she is sold by slave traders to the future emperor (Charu Roy). Selima catches the eye of the prince, but finds a bitter rival in an ambitious favourite (Seeta Devi) from his harem. Shiraz, meanwhile, is fated to design the queen’s iconic mausoleum. The restoration by the BFI National Archive and Dragon Digital has significantly improved the picture quality of the film. A new score commissioned by the BFI from world-renowned sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar will be performed live with an ensemble of musicians playing Indian and western instruments.

Bryony Dixon
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People who added this item 80 Average listal rating (42 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.1
CULT GALA

A teenage girl taps into some long-dormant powers, in this chiller from Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st).

Acclaimed filmmaker Joachim Trier switches gear for this supernaturally-tinged tale of a young woman’s macabre coming of age. Known for his trio of astute human dramas (Reprise, Oslo, August 31st and Louder Than Bombs), a horror film might seem a bold departure for Trier. Yet this subtle shocker is every bit the kind of intricate character study we have come to expect from the filmmaker, with its genre stylings used to heighten the emotions rather than dictate them. Thelma is a young biology student living away from her strict family for the first time. While she attempts to enjoy her new-found independence, her parents’ influence remains palpable, thanks to regular phone calls in which they check up on their daughter’s every move. But Thelma’s life is turned upside down when she meets beautiful classmate Anja, whose presence appears to awaken long-dormant, supernatural powers within her. Calling to mind the melancholic frights of female-focused coming-of-age tales such as Carrie, Ginger Snaps or, more recently, Julia Ducournau’s Raw, Trier’s imaginative and beautifully realised film places the emotional journey of its heroine front and centre, resulting in an experience as deeply moving as it is slyly chilling.

Michael Blyth
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People who added this item 52 Average listal rating (28 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 6.3
JOURNEY GALA

Part children’s coming-of-age tale, part homage to silent cinema, entirely wonderful.

Todd Haynes brings a typically imaginative, playfully cinematic eye to his adaptation of Brian Selznick’s acclaimed young adult novel. Ben and Rose may be from very different worlds, but they have much in common. Both hearing-impaired, and both desperately unhappy, they each dream of a better life. In 1977, Ben’s life is turned upside down following the tragic death of his mother. All alone in the world, Ben discovers a note which might lead to his absent father’s whereabouts, and sets off on a mission to New York to find him. Meanwhile, in 1927, introverted Rose is obsessed with silent movie star Lillian Mayhew. Fleeing her neglectful father, she too ventures to the Big Apple to track down the famed actress. Once in the city, both youngsters are drawn to the American Museum of Natural History, where their seemingly disparate paths mysteriously intertwine. Effortlessly juggling dual narratives (and dual cinematic styles), Haynes tackles Selznick’s own script with boundless imagination, combining the playful experimentation of his most formally daring works Poison or I’m Not There, with the graceful storytelling of Far from Heaven and Carol. Both a whimsical children’s film for adults and a refreshingly grown-up film for children, Wonderstruck will leave you just that.

Michael Blyth
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Official Competition

The Best Film Award recognises inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking.
A riveting and invigorating account of AIDS activist organisation ACT UP-Paris.

Pulsating with life and pounding with urgency, this rousing, heart-breaking celebration of political activism is nothing short of a modern queer classic. Drawing directly on personal experience, Robin Campillo’s extraordinary account of AIDS activist group ACT UP-Paris in the 1990s begins in the thick of it – at a group meeting. As members discuss action and debate strategy, a small gang of fresh recruits are welcomed into the fold. Among the newbies is introspective, HIV-negative Nathan, who finds himself instantly drawn to outspoken group member Sean. As Nathan becomes more involved in the group’s activities – from closed-off meetings to direct action in medical labs, school playgrounds and political rallies – his romantic relationship with Sean develops. With much of the drama taking place in the meeting space, Campillo’s film thrives on the power of discourse. So rarely has the palpable exhilaration and frustration of activism been so richly rendered on screen, with the weekly gatherings that punctuate the film exuding passion and anger. But far more than a cerebral account of political action, this is a deeply emotional and bracingly sensual film, which ignites the heart and body just as much as it incites the mind.

Michael Blyth

On Friday 13 October we are hosting a 120 BPM DJ Night inspired by the film, with DJs Unskinny Bop.
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One night in a hotel room has catastrophic consequences in this piercing drama that takes a young female perspective on corruption and sexual exploitation.

Mia, a teenage drifter without official papers, is illegally working a hotel-reception night shift when she witnesses something disturbing and suspicious. At a nearby school the next day, 12-year-old Wen and her friend get into a fight, which leads their teachers to suspect that the girls have been assaulted while in the care of a police commissioner. These events are the catalyst for this astonishing drama, which focuses on Mia and Wen over the days that follow. Director Vivian Qu follows her debut Trap Street (LFF2013 First Feature Competition) with a film that contrasts gripping realism with poignant imagery and subtle symbolism. Aided by the breakout performances of its two young leads, Angels Wear White conjures up a complex tale of blackmail and corruption that has us empathising with characters even as they make morally questionable choices. Qu’s compassionate, feminist approach illustrates Mia’s and Wen’s internal lives, while showing how the trouble they’re in is the result of systemic problems, particularly the way sexuality is imposed on – and used to control – the bodies of women and girls. This is urgent contemporary Chinese filmmaking that packs a devastating emotional punch.

Kate Taylor
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People who added this item 1 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.9
Acclaimed Iranian auteur Majid Majidi relocates to Mumbai to tell a fast-paced coming-of-age story about a teenager who sets out to save his sister.

Set in the slums of Mumbai, acclaimed director Majid Majidi delivers a powerful coming-of-age tale about a brother trying to save his jailed sister. Risk-taking Iranian director Majid Majidi, best known for his Oscar®-nominated Children of Heaven, moves to Mumbai for this stunning feature. Appearing in his first film, Ishaan Khattar gives an extraordinary, high-energy performance as Aamir, a teenage roustabout. He makes the most of his life of fast bikes and dodging trouble while dealing drugs across Mumbai’s dockland underbelly. And yet, behind the hedonism is a young man desperately missing his family. Following a drugs bust, Aamir ends up on the doorstep of his estranged sister Tara. She lives alone and is constantly harassed by men. The siblings try to live together in the apartment, but a past clouded by loss and despair makes it difficult. However, when Tara almost kills a man who attempts to rape her and ends up in jail, she suddenly finds in Aamir her one hope of seeing the outside world again. Alongside his gifted cast, Majidi is working once again with cinematographer Anil Mehta, who captures India’s urban landscape with a breathtaking sense of awe. And the immensely talented, Oscar®-winning composer A R Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) provides a richly nuanced score.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney
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People who added this item 87 Average listal rating (59 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.6
This exceptional animated film about a girl’s struggles in Afghanistan is based on the bestselling novel by Deborah Ellis.

One girl’s struggle in Taliban-controlled Kabul is the subject of this animated tour de force from Cartoon Saloon (Song of the Sea, LFF2014) and executive produced by Angelina Jolie. When 11-year-old Parvana’s father is taken by the Taliban, she and her family find life difficult without a man in the house. Women are forbidden from going anywhere unaccompanied, which means access to food or even trying to enquire about their father’s whereabouts is impossible. If they are to survive, drastic action must be taken. That’s when Parvana cuts her hair and passes herself off as a boy. It’s a cruel environment, but as a boy she has complete freedom in this war-torn city. The sole breadwinner she might be, but Parvana’s actions place her in terrible danger. Respectful and celebratory in its depiction of Afghan history and culture, this is an exceptional film that depicts a family determined to stay together at all costs. The Breadwinner is an important work, beautifully made by Nora Twomey and while there are difficult moments, this is ultimately an uplifting, inspiring film that offers hope and desire for a world where all women’s voices will be heard.

Justin Johnson
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People who added this item 12 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 6.8
Good Manners (2017)
Rule-breaking filmmaking at its most compelling and imaginative.

If you like surprises, then look no further – this mind-bendingly subversive, grown-up fairy tale is about as unclassifiable as it gets. The more unexpected a film, the less one should know in advance. So, for those who don’t wish for this year’s great cinematic surprise to be compromised, stop reading now. Should you choose to keep going, I promise to tread carefully. Clara is a care worker living on the outskirts of São Paulo. Struggling to make ends meet, she accepts the position of live-in nanny to the as-yet unborn child of a wealthy single woman named Ana. The two women immediately develop a strong bond, but Ana’s increasingly strange behaviour hints at a deep, dark secret. Then, one night, the shocking truth emerges. What starts as an eccentrically styled slice of social realism, morphs into something else entirely, without ever compromising the emotional integrity of its characters, nor stretching narrative credibility, no matter how weird things get. This is truly innovative, bracingly bold filmmaking – unafraid of breaking rules and creating new ones. There is, quite simply, nothing else like it. See it now before everyone starts talking about it.

Michael Blyth
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People who added this item 5 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 7.2
The Guardians (2017)
A superbly involving French rural drama from Xavier Beauvois, with Nathalie Baye magnificent as a matriarch struggling to run the land when war breaks out.

Xavier Beauvois reveals the heroic struggles of women on the rural home front in First World War France, in a gripping, terrifically acted ensemble drama. With Of Gods and Men (LFF2010), erstwhile enfant terrible director Xavier Beauvois came of age as a powerful storyteller in a classic French tradition. He explores that mode further with a film that rediscovers a 1924 novel by the once-celebrated Ernest Pérochon. The ‘gardiennes’ of the title are the women who roll up their sleeves to take charge of the land when war breaks out. Nathalie Baye, in the role of a lifetime, is utterly commanding as Hortense, the matriarch who will do anything to ensure that family and farm survive, as the men of the family make intermittent returns from the front, and the arrival of American troops brings its own unrest. Caroline Champetier’s magnificent landscape photography brings an elemental touch to the realism, while a superb support cast mixes known names (notably Baye’s real-life daughter Laura Smet) and non-professionals, including terrific 78-year-old debut actor Gilbert Bonneau. Another revelation is radiant newcomer Iris Bry, who plays Francine, her personal drama carrying an emotional heft that gives The Guardians the intensity of French-style Thomas Hardy.

Jonathan Romney
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People who added this item 28 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 7.4
Andrew Haigh’s ravishing and mournful fourth feature sees a boy and a horse embark on a Huckleberry Finn-esque journey across America in search of home.

Ravishing and doleful in equal measure, Andrew Haigh’s fourth feature is a resplendent portrait of a lonely neglected boy on a quest for home. While Haigh continues to make exciting, unexpected choices of material – Lean on Pete is adapted from Willy Vlautin’s acclaimed novel about a Huckleberry Finn-esque journey across America’s sparse Northwest – this shares DNA with his last two features, skilfully making intimate emotional journeys epic, and the personal universal. 15-year-old Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer) has rarely stayed in the same place for more than a year. Having been left by his mother as a child, he lives with his father who loves him but doesn’t understand just how much Charley craves and needs stability (not to mention food). He longingly remembers his aunt, who fell out with her brother. But her whereabouts are unknown. Taking a part-time job with a cantankerous and not entirely on the up-and-up horse trainer (Steve Buscemi), he forms a deep bond with nearly-knackered horse Lean on Pete. Charlie Plummer is soulfully good in the lead role – his talks to the horse providing a tender and insightful interior monologue. We knew it already, but Lean on Pete once again confirms Haigh’s versatility and cements his reputation as one of the great cinematic storytellers of his generation.

Tricia Tuttle
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People who added this item 103 Average listal rating (60 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.7
Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return, Leviathan) takes a caustic look at contemporary Russian values as a couple going through a divorce deal with their son’s disappearance.

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to his LFF2014 Best Film winner Leviathan, about a couple whose son disappears as they’re just about to divorce, paints a quietly horrific picture of life in contemporary Russia. Still reluctantly sharing their apartment, Boris and Zhenya can’t wait to end their marriage and begin anew with their respective lovers; such is their mutual dislike, they’re oblivious to the terrible effect their constant arguments are having on their shy, lonely 12-year-old son Alyosha. Then one day they discover that the boy’s no longer to be found, and they’re expected to work together in dealing both with the police and with a group of volunteers who search for missing children. Faced with bureaucratic lassitude and focused on their own romantic, erotic, professional and hedonistic aspirations, the parents – clearly representative of certain aspects of Russian society – are ill-equipped to deal with this time-consuming catastrophe; desperate for love themselves, they seemingly have none to spare. Working with his regular writing partner Oleg Negin, Zvyagintsev expertly balances taut suspense, vivid characterisation and state-of-the-nation commentary, while his sensitivity to subtly expressive sound and eloquent, resonant images remains undiminished. Another gem from a boldly imaginative filmmaker.

Geoff Andrew
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People who added this item 15 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 6.1
The Lovers (2017)
Tracy Letts and Debra Winger play a married couple poised to break up in Azazel Jacobs’ crackingly funny and heart-wrenching look at long term love.

Azazel Jacobs muses on long-term love and marriage with this bittersweet, blackly comic drama starring Tracy Letts and Debra Winger, who deliver a pair of knock-out, awards-worthy performances. Michael and Mary have been married for years. Estranged from each other, they are trapped in tedious jobs and find some solace in semi-ridiculous affairs (with Melora Walters and Aidan Gillen, terrific as the irritating but earnest lovers). Unbeknown to each other, Michael and Mary are both poised to walk away from their marriage; all they have to do is get through a weekend visit from their son and his new girlfriend. However, their feelings for each other start to thaw, even stir. Delivering both belly laughs and gut-wrenching pathos (both moods are deliciously present in Mandy Hoffman’s sweeping romantic score), Jacobs’ screenplay is perfectly calibrated, balancing moments of sublime absurdity with devastating, razor-sharp observations on how love can shift and change with time. Nowhere more so than in the final act, as we become more intimate with the details of how Mary and Michael reached such a lamentable impasse and witness the effect their interaction has on their son.

Tricia Tuttle
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Australian director Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) brings a vital Indigenous perspective and great cinematic vision to this powerful, revisionist epic.

An Aboriginal stockman is accused of murdering a white man in Warwick Thornton’s searing Australian Western. Thornton follows up his uncompromising Camera d’Or winning debut Samson & Delilah (LFF2009) with an expansive film of great cinematic scope and vision. It’s 1929 and segregationist policies weigh heavy in Australia’s Northern Territory. Cattle-herder Sam (Hamilton Morris) is sent with his wife and niece to work for newly-arrived station owner Harry March (Ewen Leslie). But where Sam’s religious boss (Sam Neill) treats them respectfully, March is institutionally racist, unhinged and abusive. When March goes on a booze-fuelled rampage, an altercation occurs and Sam shoots him in self-defence. Anticipating that frontier ‘justice’ will prevail, Sam and wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) go on the run. The local sergeant (Bryan Brown) sets off in hot pursuit, leading a posse of landowners and aided by Aboriginal tracker Archie (Gibson John). Traversing the stunning MacDonnell Ranges outside Alice Springs, the chase takes them onto country where Sam, a seasoned bushman, has the upper hand. Heightening the overall sense of dread and unease with a series of hallucinatory flash-forwards that reveal horrors yet to come, Thornton brings a vital Indigenous perspective and a striking visual imagination to this potent, revisionist epic.

Clare Stewart
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People who added this item 90 Average listal rating (52 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.3
Taut, tense and deliciously nasty – my little pony this ain’t.

Two teenage girls reignite a childhood friendship to deliciously dark ends, in this witty contemporary noir. Electrifying duo Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) are Lily and Amanda, reunited when Amanda’s mum asks Lily to help her daughter study. Having personally euthanised the family horse, Amanda is notorious amongst the blue-blood community of her Connecticut suburb. It’s a fact Lily clearly finds fascinating. Neither is afraid to shock or offend, and their competitive trading in acerbic quips soon intensifies to the point where they jokingly plan to kill Lily’s loathsome stepfather Mark. However, in their attempts to impress each other, the plan soon becomes serious and together they dupe a small-time drug dealer (the late Anton Yelchin, imbuing his role with the perfect amount of pathos) into helping them. Les Diaboliques and Heavenly Creatures are clearly reference points here, but Thoroughbreds is no imitation. Playwright-turned-debut filmmaker Cory Finley embraces cinema’s full potential, directing with muscular energy. As Lyle Vincent’s camera prowls through Mark’s mansion – accompanied by Erik Friedlander’s unsettling percussive score – Finley’s finely-toned script is offset by smart visual cues, nudging the audience towards the dreaded dénouement. Thoroughbreds is a pedigree treat.

Tricia Tuttle
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People who added this item 1 Average listal rating (0 ratings) 0 IMDB Rating 7.4
Wajib (2017)
An estranged father-son relationship in the vibrant city of Nazareth makes for an immensely entertaining drama by Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir.

In Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir’s accomplished and charming third feature, a man carries out a centuries-old tradition with his estranged father. Shadi returns to his paternal home for the first time in years, to honour the Nazareth tradition of hand-delivering his sister’s wedding invitations with his father (‘wajib’). But the two men haven’t spoken for a long time and don’t see eye-to-eye on many things – from who should be invited to what music to listen to in the car. Whilst Abu Shadi is bemused by his architect son’s Italian fashion sense – he wears bright red trousers and a flowery shirt – he remains pained by Shadi’s allegiance to his mother following their divorce. Inevitably, personal antagonism, small town gossip, political, cultural and generational differences all rear their heads as the journey progesses. But as their bickering continues against the backdrop of a vibrant city, the pair come to understand each other a little better. Acting together for the first time, real-life father and son Mohammad and Saleh Bakri bring warmth, charisma and humour to Jacir’s thoroughly engrossing and immensely entertaining drama.

Elhum Shakerifar
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First Feature Competition

The Sutherland Award recognises the most original and imaginative directorial debut.
People who added this item 5 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.1
Apostasy (2017)
Written and directed by a former Jehovah’s Witness, this gripping debut depicts a family struggling with a cruel choice: devotion to one another or to their faith.

When you’re a family raised in The Truth what comes first – devotion to the faith or to one another? 18 year-old Alex, her elder sister Luisa and their mother Ivanna live as part of a close-knit community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Manchester. Their contact with non-believers is largely limited to proselytising – Alex and Luisa spread the word amongst the local Pakistani community and their mother juggles missionary duties in the local town centre with an office job. But after mixing with her ‘worldly’ college friends, Luisa is found guilty of fornication by the church elders. Following her expulsion, Luisa’s mother and sister are forced to ostracise her completely or be shunned themselves. Written and directed by a former Jehovah’s Witness with a background in fine arts, Apostasy employs a precise visual style to evoke the quiet, internal world of religious believers who find themselves in, but not part of, our world.

Jemma Desai
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People who added this item 11 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 6.8
A bold and inventive coming-of-age tale with a difference.

A teenage girl explores her sexuality whilst battling with the onset of blindness in this bold and provocative coming-of-age story. On vacation with her mother and baby sister, strong-willed 13-year-old Ava discovers she has a degenerative condition that will result in the imminent loss of her eyesight. Her mother is determined to make the most of their family holiday, carrying on as if nothing is wrong. But Ava has other ideas. Right from its eye-popping opening moments on a crowded, sun-drenched Cote d’Azur beach, Léa Mysius’ hypnotic debut offers up some of this year’s most arresting images – its richly rendered colour palette often at odds with the thematic darkness of the story. Recalling the playful rebelliousness of early François Ozon or the confrontational sexual politics of Catherine Breillat, this drolly acerbic portrait of impudent adolescence is every bit as daring, unruly and unexpected as its young heroine deserves.

Michael Blyth
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People who added this item 15 Average listal rating (9 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7
The hunt for a Jersey serial killer sparks a dangerous awakening in a young woman in this astonishing psycho-sexual thriller, which sets all the senses aflame.

While celebrating her birthday, Moll drifts away from the party and finds herself eye-to-piercing-blue-eye with Pascal, a local poacher and police suspect. The attraction between these two damaged souls is immediate and palpable, and the film captures both the euphoric flush of first love and the heady insanity of sexual obsession. Meanwhile, a string of murders across Jersey has the island’s inhabitants primed for a witch hunt, and Moll and Pascal both already have black marks against them. Can they find a way to break free of social prejudice? With compelling lead performances from Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn, director Michael Pearce has created an intoxicating film that employs a vast cinematic canvas (calling to mind both Jane Campion and Lynne Ramsay) and bends genre expectations to its will. A genuinely sexy British thriller like this is a rare beast indeed.

Kate Taylor
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People who added this item 5 Average listal rating (0 ratings) 0 IMDB Rating 7.3
The Cakemaker (2017)
A gay German baker and an Israeli widow find comfort in their shared grief, in this tale of loneliness, complex desire, and lots of cakes.

An impressively classy debut about a grief-stricken Israeli widow and gay cakemaker from Berlin who share their sorrow over the death of the man they both loved. When Israeli businessman Oren stops at Thomas’ café while working in Germany, an instant connection sparks a long distance affair, despite the acknowledgement that Oren has a wife and child in Jerusalem. After a blissful relationship of more than a year, Oren doesn’t return and all calls and texts abruptly stop. Thomas travels to Israel to discover the devastating reason why. Grieving, he seeks comfort from Oren’s bereaved widow (the superb Sarah Adler) without revealing that he knew her husband. Ofir Raul Graizer directs his beautiful screenplay with a subtlety that avoids judgement, instead observing with great sensitivity how grief and desire work. Their alchemical effect is not dissimilar to the magical cakes that Thomas bakes from flour, yeast, sugar and butter.

Tricia Tuttle
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People who added this item 1 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.4
Tensions erupt when three sons are forced to take over a failing family fisheries business in this dark and compelling North Sea drama.

When the craggy patriarch of a struggling North Sea fishing company falls overboard, his eldest son has to take over the family business, igniting dark tensions between three brothers. LFF alumnus Gilles Coulier delivers this finely observed feature debut about masculine codes of behaviour in a family notably absent of women. Stern and serious Jean (brilliant Flemish actor Sam Louwyck) is single father to an 8-year-old and sees a dying fisheries business as having no possible future. Younger sibling Francis must hide his secret lover and desperately wants to escape to seek happiness. Only black sheep William, returning home to an indifferent welcome, wants to carry on the family trade. Cinematographer David Williamson (Flemish Heaven, LFF2016) draws out the blues and blacks of each shot of this powerful film, emphasising the age-old traditions of this world and the turbulent seas to which the family are inexorably linked.

Tricia Tuttle
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People who added this item 49 Average listal rating (27 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.3
A young librarian with a thing for Modernist architecture expands her horizons when a Korean lawyer (John Cho) comes to town, in this impeccable debut.

After his lecturer father is taken ill, Jin (John Cho) heads to Columbus, Indiana, the modernist architecture capital of America. Jin encounters Casey, a librarian. She’s a smart cookie brimming with ideas and potential in a town too small to contain them, but stymied by a co-dependent relationship with her mother. Their blossoming friendship is the foundation of this intelligent drama that considers the limits of what we owe to our families. Those familiar with director Kogonada’s video essay work on Ozu will not be surprised by his formal and thematic affinity with that master – every corridor is meticulously framed. Another influence is Hal Hartley, particularly in the hyper-articulate, off-kilter dialogue. Ultimately, the film offers a perspective entirely its own, making the case for the emotional power of architecture. This is stylish, intellectually ambitious cinema, with the added thrill of seeing Parker Posey speaking Korean.

Kate Taylor
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Welsh-raised, Zambian-born Rungano Nyoni delivers a dazzling debut with this dark satirical fairy tale about a little girl accused of being a witch.

In a Zambian village Shula, a small, silent girl with big eyes, is accused of being a witch. Her choice: join a travelling witch camp or become a goat. Thus begins Zambian-born, Wales-raised Rungano Nyoni’s dazzling and audacious satirical fairy tale. Choosing to join the troop, Shula (a startlingly impressive Margaret Mulubwa) is placed onto a flatbed truck alongside witches with long ribbons streaming down their backs, attached to spindles which ensure their captivity. Shula’s big eyes remain inscrutably calm, even when she is subjected to the bizarre absurdities of being a tourist attraction in a travelling freak-show. Nyoni explodes onto the global stage with this thrilling debut and its exhilaratingly cacophonous array of cultural influences. Rooted in an attack on a specific tradition – witch camps – this allegorical tale is also a blistering critique of attitudes to women. And if the details are specific to Africa, its themes are globally resonant.

Tricia Tuttle
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