Mon. Jul 6th, 2020

60th BFI London Film Festival: Lion, Arrival, A Monster Calls and much more


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The 60th BFI London Film Festival has announced its films this morning and they feature some familiar faces of the already announced fall festivals and offer us a glimpse into the studio pushes for the upcoming Oscar season.

Despite the ongoing controversy with Nate Parker and his 1999 rape case in college, he and his film The Birth of a Nation will appear at the festival. Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi drama starring Amy Adams is set for the fest. It’s already showed at Venice and is on deck for Toronto and Telluride as well. Her Nocturnal Animals, from Tom Ford, is also appearing.

A Monster Calls, from J.A. Bayona and starring Oscar-nominee Felicity Jones, will be a Headline Gala. Focus Features recently pulled the film from October to give it a more prestigious December awards release.

Once again, Rooney Mara has three films showing – Lion, The Secret Scripture and Una. It should be noted that Lion is getting the American Express Gala this year; the last three years that honor has gone to Carol, Foxcatcher and Philomena. Philomena grabbed a Best Picture Oscar nomination while Carol and Foxcatcher both got Lead and Supporting acting nominations among others.

The Official Competition lineup sees a rich tapestry of films including Paul Verhoeven’s Elle starring Oscar hopeful Isabelle Huppert, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women starring Kristen Stewart and Michelle Williams (one of two films she has here) and Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight. A24 is doing a spectacular job getting this film to multiple festivals ahead of its October bow. The studio also has its period action thriller Free Fire, starring Oscar-winner Brie Larson, as the festival’s Closing Night film.

Here is the lineup for the 60th BFI London Film Festival:


Opening & Closing Night Galas

The Festival opens with the European Premiere of Amma Asante’s A UNITED KINGDOM, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Director Asante, a previous winner of the Festival’s UK Film Talent Award, returns to the Festival for a second time with a film that tells the true story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1947 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.

The European Premiere of Ben Wheatley’s high octane FREE FIRE will close the Festival on Sunday 16 October. FREE FIRE is Wheatley’s third film to be presented at the Festival, following High-Rise (2015) which screened as Festival Gala and Sightseers (2012) which screened as Laugh Gala. Sharp-witted Justine (Brie Larson) brokers a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley) and a gang led by Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Ord (Armie Hammer) who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired in the handover, a heart-stopping game of survival ensues.

Headline Galas


Special Presentations

Four films take the spotlight in this section: the Festival Special Presentation, AMERICAN HONEY, Andrea Arnold’s sun-soaked and tune-filled epic about door-to-door teenage magazine sellers travelling America’s highways; the Documentary Special Presentation, Ava DuVernay’s far-reaching and powerful THE 13TH, a searing look at a century of race relations in America; the Experimenta Special Presentation, Fiona Tan’s dazzling ASCENT, exploring the beautiful and mysterious Mount Fuji using imagery from across the history of still photography; and the BFI Flare Special Presentation, Xavier Dolan’s IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD, which won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.  2016 marks the introduction of this Special Presentation for BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival, which takes place every March at BFI Southbank, and showcases the best in contemporary queer cinema from around the world.

Strand Galas

The nine programme strands are each headlined with a gala, they are: the Love Gala, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s MIRZYA; the Debate Gala, Bertrand Bonello’s NOCTURAMA; the Dare Gala, Park Chan-wook’s THE HANDMAIDEN; the Laugh Gala, Maren Ade’s TONI ERDMANN; the Thrill Gala, Ben Younger’s BLEED FOR THIS; the Cult Gala, André Øvredal’s THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE; the Journey Gala, Jim Jarmusch’s PATERSON; the Sonic Gala, Spike Lee’s CHI-RAQ and the Family Gala is Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn’s TROLLS.

Awards and Competitions

One of the twelve films screening in the Festival’s Official Competition will again be given the Best Film Award; while the winners of the First Feature and Documentary Competitions will respectively receive the Sutherland and Grierson Awards. 2016 marks the second year of the Festival’s Short Film Award, again open to all short films across the contemporary short film selections, from narrative to documentary and experimental works. In a first for the Festival, each competitive section also features an animated film, a testament to the extraordinary animation work the programme team have seen this year. These are: Makoto Shinkai’s YOUR NAME in Official Competition; Claude Barras’ MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE in the First Feature Competition; Keith Maitland’s TOWER in the Documentary Competition; and Réka Bucsi’s LOVE will be considered for the Short Film Award.

Official Competition

The Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following:

  • Martin Koolhoven, BRIMSTONE
  • Kelly Reichardt, CERTAIN WOMEN
  • Mohamed Diab, CLASH
  • Paul Verhoeven, ELLE
  • François Ozon, FRANTZ
  • Ivan Sen, GOLDSTONE (European Premiere)
  • Mijke de Jong, LAYLA M. (European Premiere)
  • Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT (European Premiere)
  • Pablo Larraín, NERUDA
  • Terence Davies, A QUIET PASSION
  • Benedict Andrews, UNA (European Premiere)
  • Makoto Shinkai, YOUR NAME

First Feature Competition

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

  • Jorge Riquelme Serrano, CHAMELEON (International Premiere)
  • Darren Thornton, A DATE FOR MAD MARY
  • Houda Benyamina, DIVINES
  • Johannes Nyholm, THE GIANT
  • Mohamed Ben Attia, HEDI
  • William Oldroyd, LADY MACBETH
  • Hope Dickson Leach, THE LEVELLING (European Premiere)
  • Claude Barras, MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE
  • Bartosz M. Kowalski, PLAYGROUND
  • Gabe Klinger, PORTO
  • Julia Ducournau, RAW
  • Daouda Coulibaly, WÙLU

Documentary Competition

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

  • Jenny Gage, ALL THIS PANIC (European Premiere)
  • Eva Orner, CHASING ASYLUM (European Premiere)
  • Jon Nguyen, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE
  • Claire Simon, THE GRADUATION
  • Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla, AN INSIGNIFICANT MAN (European Premiere)
  • Alma Har’el, LOVETRUE
  • Alice Diop, ON CALL
  • Ulrich Seidl, SAFARI
  • Mehrdad Oskouei, STARLESS DREAMS
  • Keith Maitland, TOWER
  • Andreas Dalsgaard, Obaidah Zytoon, THE WAR SHOW

For the full program list go to

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