The 64th BFI London Film Festival – A Preview

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Congratulations, you’ve made it to October 2020! I know it’s been a struggle, but fortunately, COVID-19 couldn’t stop the BFI from putting on its 64th annual London Film Festival (LFF for short). Although with less films than usual, this year’s LFF is yet again packed with a variety of different stories from a variety of different filmmakers from a variety of different countries and dialects. However, with so many films and such little time, where do you begin to prioritize your home/cinematic viewing? Well, don’t you fret, because I’m here to help guide you through this cinematic season with a couple of my own LFF ‘Ones to watch’…

Mangrove

Opening this year’s LFF is surprisingly the first episode of a miniseries called Small Axe. From Steve McQueen, the academy award winning filmmaker behind Widows, Shame and the best picture winning 12 Years A Slave, comes yet another true tale of racial injustice with Mangrove. The film tells the true story of a group of black activists called the Mangrove Nine and their infamous clash with London police in 1970 and the historical trial that followed. With the recent popularization of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mangrove can’t help but feel like McQueen’s contribution to the course as the film’s parallels display an act of solidarity. Similar to 12 Years A Slave, this is a story that everyone needs to know about, and if McQueen continues to bring his A game, this film could be the defining film of the decade.

(The Cast of Mangrove)

Nomadland

Chloe Zhao may not be a filmmaker you’re aware of now, but she soon will be, as she is all set up to direct The Eternals for Marvel next year. Having recently won a Gotham award and at Canne for her previous indie film The Rider, Zhao looks to slip in one more indie before making it in Hollywood. Nomadland stars two time academy award winner, Frances McDormand as Fern, a woman in her sixties who lost everything in the Recession and now wanders America as a modern day nomad. Having won three awards including Best Film at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Nomadland is a film you didn’t see coming, made by an upcoming filmmaker you’re soon to get well acquainted with.

(Frances McDormand in Nomadland)

Another Round

Thomas Vinterberg made cinematic history when he founded the Dogma 95 movement with Lars Von Trier and made the movements’ masterpiece with his sophomore feature, Festen (The Celebration). Now 22 years on and far removed from the Dogma movement, Vinterberg is releasing his new Canne selected movie, Another Round. The film tells the story of four high school teachers who decide to prove a theory that their lives can be improved by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their system. Another Round marks Vinterberg’s second collaboration with the amazing Mads Mikkelsen, with the first being the Oscar nominated sex scandal drama, The Hunt. Boasting a strong actor director team and a lighter premise than usual for the pair, Another Round could be a shoe in for the best international film Oscar and, considering Parasite’s wins last year, potentially it could go further.

(Mads Mikkelsen in Another Round)

Relic

The cult section of this year’s LFF is sadly rather limited, fortunately for any horror fans out there, like me, we can get our fix of haunted houses in the woods with Relic. Produced by Jake Gyllenhaal and marking the directorial debut of Natalie Erika James, Relic tells the story of Kay and her daughter Sam who begin a search for their family matriarch, Edna, after she goes missing. Relic is a horror film with something to say and express that looks to only deepen the horror depicted on screen. If you’re a fan of The Babadook, or just in need of a good scare this Halloween season, here’s another Australian horror film for you to sink your teeth into.

(Robyn Nevin in Relic)

One Night in Miami

Regina King has gone from strength to strength in recent years; having won an Oscar for her supporting Role in Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk and then her fourth Emmy for the 11 time Primetime Emmy winning show, Watchmen. Now King has decided to make her directorial feature debut with her new movie, One Night In Miami. Based on the play and written for the screen by Kemp Powers, the film tells a fictional account of a single night in which black icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown all hung out and discussed their various roles in the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. With a performance heavy story, relevant political themes and 7 years of directing for TV under her belt, Regina King should be in her element, and if her winning streak would make us believe, One Night In Miami could have an even better night at the academy.

(The Cast of One Night In Miami)

Lovers Rock

Finally, but by no means least, is Steve McQueen’s second episode in his Small Axe miniseries, Lovers Rock. Taking place in a single evening at a house party in 1980’s London, Lovers Rock celebrates black British culture in a more romantic and musical way. If you’re a fan of McQueen’s work, and/or plan on watching Mangrove at this year’s festival, it’s probably a good shout to add Lovers Rock to your watch list, I’m sure you’ll thank me later.

(Amarah-Jae St Aubyn & Michael Ward in Lovers Rock)