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The BAME films to see at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival

MUST WATCH: If Beale Street Could Talk (Photo credit: TIFF)

THE 62ND BFI London Film Festival is merely one month away, and we’ve got the rundown on some of the must-see films starring BAME talent coming this October.

From moving cinematic documentaries to big screen thrillers, diversity both in front of and behind the camera is taking centre stage with movies like The Hate U Give and If Beale Street Could Talk looking to dominate this year’s festival.

See our top picks below:

Public screenings:
Thursday 11 October 2018 14:00 - Embankment Garden Cinema
Friday 12 October 2018 20:40 - Odeon Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Dir Steve McQueen
Prod Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan
Scr Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen
With Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell

When Veronica’s husband (Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, respectively) is killed during a daring heist, she and the wives of the men he worked with discover money was owed to some particularly nasty people. And now they want it back. Where the title ‘widows’ might suggest women defined by their husbands’ absence, McQueen turns this idea on its head as Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo find empowerment and unexpected solidarity in tackling their men’s unfinished business.

Been So Long
Public screenings:
Friday 12 October 2018 21:00 - Embankment Garden Cinema
Saturday 13 October 2018 14:00 - LFF Cineworld Leicester Square
Monday 15 October 2018 21:00 - Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Dir Tinge Krishnan
Prod Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Amanda Jenks
Scr Ché Walker
With Michaela Coel, Arinzé Kene, George Mackay

Michaela Coel and Arinzé Kene

Having made an impact at LFF 2011 with her gritty low-budget debut Junkhearts, London-based writer-director Tinge Krishnan returns to the Festival with a different type of city story for her ambitious second feature. Adapted from Ché Walker’s stage play and retaining Arthur Darvill’s original songs, Been So Long is a contemporary musical set on the streets of Camden Town. BAFTA® winner Michaela Coel lights up the big screen as dedicated and whip-smart single mum Simone whose encounter with the confident yet secretive lothario Raymond, played by The Pass star Arinzé Kene has her head spinning. This charismatic pair lead an all-singing and dancing ensemble populated by a wealth of homegrown talent.

The Hate You Give
Public screenings:
Saturday 20 October 2018 20:45 - LFF Cineworld Leicester Square
Sunday 21 October 2018 14:30 - Embankment Garden Cinema
Sunday 21 October 2018 17:30 - Odeon Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Dir George Tillman Jr
Prod Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
Scr Audrey Wells
With Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common

Adapted by Soul Food director George Tillman Jr from Angie Thomas’ bestselling Black Lives Matter-inspired young-adult novel, The Hate U Give is an expansive and electrifying hybrid of coming-of-age tropes and powerful social drama. It boasts a remarkable lead performance from Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as code-switching Starr Carter, who presents one face to family and friends in her predominantly black neighbourhood, but a different one to her white prep-school classmates and boyfriend Chris (KJ Apa, Riverdale).

Initially playing like a smart teen movie, the film’s effervescent flow is brutally disrupted when Starr witnesses the fatal police shooting of her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith, Detroit). This shift in tone is multi-layered, as Tillman and screenwriter Audrey Wells go beyond the facts of a fictional yet all-too-familiar case to consider the human cost behind blaring headlines.

Public screenings:
Saturday 13 October 2018 18:15 - BFI Southbank, NFT1
Sunday 14 October 2018 15:00 - BFI Southbank, NFT2
Dir Wanuri Kahiu
Prod Steven Markovitz
Scr Wanuri Kahiu, Jenna Bass
With Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Jimmi Gathu

Street-smart tomboy Kena and rainbow-haired free spirit Ziki both dream of a life beyond the stifling confines of their conservative Nairobi neighbourhood. From the moment the two young women meet, the connection is clear and soon their budding friendship blossoms into something more serious. Torn between the romantic desire to follow their hearts and the pragmatic need to follow their heads, the star-crossed lovers find themselves forced to make an impossible choice between happiness and safety. This youthful, stylish approach to African cinema is bursting with energy, with a cracking performance between two brilliant leads.

What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire
Monday 15 October 2018 18:00 -Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1
Tuesday 16 October 2018 20:30 - Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Dir Roberto Minervini
Prod Paolo Benzi, Denise Ping Lee, Roberto Minervini

In 2016, unarmed 37-year-old African-American Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police officers. His death sparked public outrage and resulted in mass protests, both in his hometown and across the US, and added yet another name to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Minervini, a US-based Italian director (whose Stop the Pounding Heart played in LFF 2013), employs his unique and affecting style of documentary to depict the real stories of various members of Baton Rouge’s black community in the wake of the shooting.

If Beale Street Could Talk
Public screenings:
Saturday 20 October 2018 17:30 - Embankment Garden Cinema
Sunday 21 October 2018 11:00 - Embankment Garden Cinema
Sunday 21 October 2018 18:00 - Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Dir-Scr Barry Jenkins
Prod Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, Barry Jenkins, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Megan Ellison

‘Love is what brought you here and if you trusted it this far, trust it all the way.’ Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) have known each other since childhood, but only latterly discovered that the safe, easy familiarity between them has bloomed into a love so intoxicating it promises everlasting joy and happiness. But life is not destined to be so easy for a young black couple living in 1970s Harlem.

This is only the second time a book by Baldwin has been adapted for the screen, and In adapting Beale Street, Jenkins creates an authentic and graceful film about black lives in America – like a missing piece of cinema history for people long denied representation on screen.

Yours in Sisterhood
Public screenings:
Friday 19 October 2018 20:50 - BFI Southbank, NFT3
Sunday 21 October 2018 18:30 - Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5
Dir-Prod-Scr Irene Lusztig

Yours in Sisterhood doesn’t tell a story as much as it gathers an ensemble of personal narratives related to womanhood. UK-born filmmaker Irene Lusztig asks a group of women to read unpublished letters received by Ms., the first mainstream feminist magazine published in the US. The women then engage with the letters, relating them to their own personal experiences, highlighting with appalling clarity the fact that feminism still grapples with many of the same issues that it did in the 1970s: male-dominated workplaces, domestic work, financial independence, sex work, gay motherhood, trans representation, black womanhood and interracial relationships.

Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records
Friday 12 October 2018 18:00 -Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7
Monday 15 October 2018 13:10 - BFI Southbank, NFT2
Dir Nicolas Jack Davies
Prod Sam Bridger, Vivienne Perry

‘The seeds for the multicultural society we live in now were formed on the dancefloor back in the day,’ says Don Letts by way of introduction to Nicolas Jack Davies’ documentary about Trojan Records, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Blending original interviews with evocative archive footage and cinematic reconstructions, the film is a timely celebration of British Jamaican working-class youth culture, style and ingenuity.

Public screenings:
Sunday 14 October 2018 15:15 - Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7
Dir Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone
Prod Victoria Stone, Lucinda Englehart
Scr Mark Deeble
With Chiwetel Ejiofor

Shot over eight years, this stunning documentary tells the story of Athena, the Elephant Queen, who leads her family across Africa when drought hits their region and is narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Athena is a 50-year-old matriarch and when their water supply is threatened, they embark on a journey in gruelling heat to the badlands in search of a fresh water source. En route, they endure both heartbreak and joy in a gripping tale that’s documented through remarkable footage shot by award-winning directors Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble accompanied by a richly evocative score from Alex.

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