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Diversity shines at the BFI London Film Festival launch

BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: I Am Not A Witch

INDUSTRY INSIDERS and film enthusiasts gathered at Odeon Leicester Square as the BFI announced the full programme for the 61st London Film Festival.

This year’s line up features a diverse selection of 242 feature films from both established and emerging talent, as the 12-day celebration of film plans to illustrate the richness of filmmaking whilst addressing issues of significance.

Speaking to the audience at Odeon Leicester Square, BFI London Film Festival director Clare Stewart made it clear that current world issues clearly played a part in the tone of this year’s films. “In these globally tumultuous times, filmmakers around the world have increasingly urgent stories to tell and more reasons than ever to reimagine our reality,” said Stewart.

“This year’s BFI London Film Festival programme is rich with opportunity – to stay informed, be challenged, feel the pleasure of escape and t see the world differently.”

As Stewart shared exclusive previews of the films premiering and in competition at this year’s festival, The BFI revealed the number of ‘talking point’s they plan to address, including:

- LBGT – In the year of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Festival presents a powerful LGBT line-up.

- Immigration and Social Division – Two of the defining themes of our times are explored by filmmakers who are committed to telling powerful and complex stories about borders – both real and psychological.

- Black Star – Following the BFI’s landmark season celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors in film, recent world events give new urgency to questions of opportunity, and basic human rights.

-Visionaries – Cinema remains one of the most exhilaratingly kinetic and visually potent storytelling forms, and many filmmakers this year impress with the singularity and power of their vision, with keen imagination and dazzling style.

- Thrill – It’s a very strong year for global thrill seekers at the Festival, with a particularly strong showing from East Asia, which comes as the BFI embarks on the UK-wide season BFI Thriller, exploring how the genre reflects societal upheavals, fears and anxieties.

- Strong Women – The Festival continues to shine a light on strong women behind and in front of the camera. At this year’s Festival, 61 women directors are represented in the feature film selection, approximately 25% of the programme.

- Deafness and disability – Both feature with marked prominence in this year’s Festival programme, though the film industry still has a long way to go in terms of representation for disabled people.

The Festival will take over screens at fifteen venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas – Vue Leicester Square and the iconic Odeon Leicester Square; central London venues – BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Picturehouse Central, the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Empire Haymarket, Prince Charles Cinema and Ciné Lumière; and local cinemas – Hackney Picturehouse , Rich Mix in Shoreditch and Curzon Chelsea. Special screenings will also be held at the National Gallery and the Barbican, and several key events will also be cinecasted to cinema venues around the UK.

Speaking at the launch, Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive of the BFI said: “It is a delight to welcome some of the most thrilling storytellers from across the world to the Festival – we love to watch and engage with the extraordinary conversations that the Festival brings to our doorstep with every edition.”

“London has a big heart and this year we are again reminded of the generosity and freedom of this awesome capital city of ours which so readily embraces this multiplicity of cultures and new voices. This creativity is reflected across the UK and the engine that is enabling filmmaking to thrive, supported by a favourable fiscal environment, outstanding skills and talent and ever expanding infrastructure and facilities.”

See the official competition line-up below and for more information, visit BFI's website:

The Official Competition line-up:

120 BPM (Beats Per Minute), dir. Robin Campillo
Angels Wear White, dir. Vivian Qu
Beyond The Clouds, dir. Majid Majidi
The Breadwinner, dir. Nora Twomey
Good Manners, dirs. Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra
The Guardians, dir. Xavier Beauvois
Lean On Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh
Loveless, dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev
The Lovers, dir. Azazel Jacobs
Sweet Country, dir. Warwick Thornton
Thoroughbred, dir. Cory Finley
Wajib, dir. Annemarie Jacir

First feature competition:

Apostasy, dir. Daniel Kokotajlo
Ava, dir. Léa Mysius
Beast, dir. Michael Pearce (European Premiere)
The Cakemaker, dir. Ofir Raul Graizer
Cargo, dir. Gilles Coulier
Columbus, dir. Kogonada
I Am Not A Witch, dir. Rungano Nyoni
Jeune Femme, dir. Léonor Serraille
Most Beautiful Island, dir. Ana Asensio
Summer 1993, dir. Carla Simón
Winter Brothers, dir. Hlynur Pálmason
The Wound, dir. John Trengove

Documentary competition titles:

Before Summer Ends, dir. Maryam Goormaghtigh
Bobbi Jene, dir. Elvira Lind
Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time, dirs. Arash Kamali Sarvestani, Behrouz Boochani (International Premiere)
The Dead Nation, dir. Radu Jude
Distant Constellation, dir. Shevaun Mizrahi
Ex Libris – The New York Public Library, dir. Frederick Wiseman
Faces Places, dirs. Agnès Varda, JR
Gray House, dirs. Austin Lynch, Matthew Booth
Jane, dir. Brett Morgen (European Premiere)
Kingdom Of Us, dir. Lucy Cohen (World Premiere)
Makala, dir. Emmanuel Gras
The Prince Of Nothingwood, dir. Sonia Kronlund

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