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The fest will also mark the debut of Creature, a collaboration between choreographer Akram Khan and Oscar winner Asif Kapadia, as well as family animation My Father’s Dragon from Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner) and Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon (Wolfwalkers, The Song of the Sea).
The London festival’s series and episodic selection, now in its second year, has “a thrilling range of stories for audiences to see on the big screen,” organizers said. They unveiled a “series special presentation” as the world premiere of The English, starring Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, a tale of romance and revenge from television auteur Hugo Blick (An Honourable Woman, Black Earth Rising). Also premiering in the section are comedy-drama Mammals, “a dissection of monogamy” written by Olivier- and Tony Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Jez Butterworth and starring James Corden and Sally Hawkins, and A Spy Among Friends, which explores MI6 agent Kim Philby’s defection to the Soviet Union and stars Guy Pearce and Damian Lewis, the latter reuniting with showrunner Alexander Cary following their previous collaboration on Homeland.
“The BFI London Film Festival shines a spotlight on the impressive range of creative talent within the U.K. and is thrilled to help launch a rich and varied selection of homegrown world premieres,” organizers said.
In addition to three U.K. productions world premiering as part of the episodic strand, the London festival will also present the “claustrophobic whistleblower comedy” Klokkenluider, the directorial debut of actor Neil Maskell (Kill List) starring Amit Shah, Tom Burke and Jenna Coleman, and Welsh filmmaker Jamie Adams’ “bittersweet part-improvised love story” She Is Love, starring Sam Riley (Control) and Haley Bennett (Cyrano).
“Award-winning short filmmaker Dionne Edwards delivers on the promise of early work with her heart-swelling debut, Pretty Red Dress, which investigates Black masculinity and family dynamics,” the fest also said. Other U.K. debuts launching at the event include: Andrew Cumming’s Palaeolithic low-budget horror film The Origin, Fridjof Ryder’s dark thriller Inland, starring Mark Rylance, and British-Kenyan artist Grace Ndiritu’s long-form debut Becoming Plant.
U.K. documentary cinema will also have a strong presence during the London festival with world premieres including Name Me Lewand by Edward Lovelace (The Possibilities Are Endless), which explores the experience of a deaf Kurdish boy, If the Streets Were on Fire, a portrait of London’s BikeStormz community, and two new films produced by Natasha Dack-Ojumo, co-founder of Tigerlily Films (Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché): Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti in Six Chapters and Blue Bag Life. And Yemi Bamiro also returns to LFF with his follow-up to Michael Jordan portrait One Man and His Shoes with Super Eagles ’96 about the Nigerian soccer team.
Beyond British films, newly unveiled titles include Shttl from director and screenwriter Ady Walter, set in a Jewish village prior to the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941. “A filmmaker returns from Kyiv in search of his intended bride,” according to a plot summary of the black-and-white “single-shot” drama in Yiddish, which stars Saul Rubinek, Moshe Lobel and Antoine Millet.
The total number of world premieres screening in the London festival’s feature program has increased slightly over 2019, from 11 percent to 15 percent.
“Galas, competitive features, short films – across all sections of the program, this is perhaps the richest overall selection of world premieres we have had the privilege of hosting at BFI London Film Festival, and we want to give these artists a moment in the sun before the full program launch,” said Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival director. “Securing world premieres for their own sake is never an aim of our audience-facing festival, but it is an honor that these filmmakers and artists entrust us help them to launch their beautiful work. And this is, at least in part, down to the passion and commitment of our audiences!”
The 66th edition of the London Film Festival, held in partnership with American Express, takes place Oct. 5-16. The full program launch will take place on Sept. 1.
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