In this unprecedented year, we’re all having to adapt and make changes and the BFI London Film Festival is no different. The 64th edition of the festival kicks off today and while the way the films are presented will be different, the programme is as thrilling and vibrant as ever, with plenty of opportunities to see some of the most exciting new films. The opening night film is Steve McQueen’s Mangrove, which tells this true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The trial that followed was the first judicial acknowledgment of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police. As part of McQueen’s five-part Small Axe series for the BBC, it will be available to watch at home next month but here’s five other films to look out for.
Francis Lee’s last film was the beautiful God’s Own Country, which immediately marked out his follow-up as a must see. His follow up is here and stars Kate Winslet as acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning who embarks on an intense relationship with a young woman who is sent to convalesce by the sea. The wonderful Saoirse Ronan co-stars.
One of the most arresting and talented actors in the UK, Riz Ahmed, plays a British Pakistani rapper who is on the cusp of his first world tour, but is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break. Ahmed consistently makes bold and interesting choices and Mogul Mowgli looks like another one.
Having already picked up one of the biggest prizes on the festival calendar, the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Nomadland stars the incomparable Frances McDormand as a woman who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. It’s already one of the best reviewed films of the year and director, Chloe Zhao, is one of the most exciting filmmakers on the planet. Her next project is Marvel’s Eternals, due in cinemas next year.
The big family film at this year’s festival is one of the most exciting in years. It’s another true Pixar original about a musician who has lost his passion for music and is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself. It’s the kind of plot only Pixar would attempt and only Pete Docter (Inside Out, Up) can pull off. Expect it to be very special.
Another classy acting pairing unites as Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play Sam and Tusker who are traveling across England in their old RV to visit friends, family and places from their past. Since Tusker was diagnosed with dementia two years ago, their time together is the most important thing they have. The trailer alone is a tear-jerker so I’m not sure I can handle the full 90 minutes.
As usual, there’s plenty more on offer and with more opportunities to watch at cinemas around the country than ever before, there’s still time to get involved.