BFI London Film Festival 2020: Big releases and hidden gems from Ammonite to Limbo

Big releases and hidden gems at BFI London Film Festival from Ammonite to Limbo (Image: Youtube)

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Despite the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the film world may be down but not out and the BFI London Film Festival is back.

That's right, with a virtual twist, the biggest UK film festival is returning with a whole selection of critically-acclaimed and thought-provoking films from around the world, including some of the best that Britain has to offer.

This year's festival will open with Mangrove, a new period film from the Small Axe anthology of films by 12 Years a Slave director Sir Steve McQueen, which stars Black Panther actress Letitia Wright and Malachi Kirby.

Elsewhere, we have films from the likes of God's Own Country director Francis Lee, The Rider helmer Chloe Zhao, the directorial debut of Oscar-winning actress Regina King, and an entirely new offering from Pixar Animation Studios, entitled Soul.

So, here's all you need to know about some of the biggest releases at BFI London Film Festival 2020 and some other hidden gems to look out for. 

Small Axe – Mangrove

Sir Steve McQueen's Mangrove will open the BFI London Film Festival 2020
(Image: Courtesy of the BBC)

In this new anthology of tales about London’s West Indian community between the 1960s and 1980s, 12 Years a Slave director Sir Steve McQueen tackles an ever-relevant issue of police brutality. The Mangrove restaurant is a community hub for Black Londoners that becomes a site for a political explosion when nine Black activists are wrongfully arrested. Starring Letitia Wright and Malachi Kirby. In cinemas only.

Ammonite

Kate Winslet (right) and Saoirse Ronan (left) star in Francis Lee's drama Ammonite
(Image: See-Saw Films / Lionsgate UK / Neon)

Returning after his acclaimed romance God’s Own Country, director Francis Lee once again tells us a love story but this time with period trappings. Isolated 19th-century palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) finds new meaning in life with arrival of a melancholic younger gentlewoman (Saoirse Ronan). In cinemas only.

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Pixar’s Soul

The latest animated adventure from Pixar Animation Studios sees music teacher Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) near new professional success before taking an unexpected visit to a realm where new souls are born. In cinemas only.

Small Axe – Lovers Rock

Steve McQueen's Small Axe anthology of films continues with romance Lovers Rock
(Image: Courtesy of the BBC)

In another tale from Sir Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, the director provides a love story amid a backdrop of 1980s London. Samson preps his sound system for a big Blues dance as Martha and Franklin each may find the love they’re looking for in a musically-rich romance.

Nomadland

Director Chloe Zhao (soon to hit the mainstream with Marvel’s Eternals) delivers a major awards contender. Nomadland follows a widow named Fern (Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) who has lost her home and much of her old married life. She now wanders the American West taking what work she can to get by and meets various figures along the way. In cinemas only.

One Night in Miami

Regina King's directorial debut One Night in Miami
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Oscar and Emmy-winning actress Regina King makes her directorial debut in this adaptation of the acclaimed play One Night in Miami, which portrays a fictional meeting of four Black historical icons. After Muhammad Ali’s (Eli Goree) 1964 victory over heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, the likes of Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) confront the truths of their experiences.

Possessor

Director Brandon Cronenberg – son of David Cronenberg – returns to helm this tale of Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), a psychic hitwoman who induces murders and suicide with her abilities. However, her latest hit starts to unravel when she meets son of a wealthy media mogul and sees her life at home threatened forever. Also stars Sean Bean and Christopher Abbott.

Relic

New horror film Relic haunts the festival
(Image: AGBO Films / SUNDANCE INSTITUTE)

When elderly Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) return to the family home. However, there they find a dangerous evil that is taking over the home and infecting their beloved Edna.

I Am Samuel

Bravely filmed in Kenya, this gay love story follows the struggles of Samuel and Alex as they navigate a romance in a country that outlaws homosexuality and in which their love will face consistent challenges. Directed by Pete Murimi.

Limbo

Set on a fictional remote Scottish island, filmmaker Ben Sharrock delivers a film about a Syrian musician and refugee who is waiting to hear back about his asylum. Stars rising actor Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhai, and Borgen star Sidse Babett Knudsen.

Supernova

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth star in Supernova
(Image: STUDIOCANAL)

In a tale of long-term love, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci star as a couple whose life together is upended when one of them is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, prompting the couple to go on a road trip and revisit places from their past together. Directed by Hinterland’s Harry Macqueen.

Shirley

Madeline’s Madeline director Josephine Decker teams up with The Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss in this tale of iconic horror author Shirley Jackson. This unconventional biopic follows young couple Fred and Rosie Nemser (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young) as they move in with Shirley and her husband Stanley Edgar Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), and promptly find themselves being manipulated by the literary pair they now live with.

Mogul Mowgli

Riz Ahmed plays an ailing rapper in Mogul Mowgli
(Image: Pulse Films/BBC)

This drama follows a British-Pakistani rapper named Zed (Riz Ahmed) who is on the cusp of career greatness in New York when he learns he has an auto-immune disease. Following this, Zed returns to London to see his family. This is a first drama feature from documentary director Bassam Tariq.

Kajillionaire

Indie favourite Miranda July returns with her American crime comedy that follows a family of small-time hustlers. However, daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) finds her dynamic with her parents (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) changed forever when she meets the kind and thoughtful Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). Will these con artists change their game?

The Human Voice

Tilda Swinton unites with legendary director Pedro Almodovar The Human Voice
(Image: Courtesy of the Pathe UK)

Legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar makes his English-language debut with this short film based on Jean Cocteau’s play. Festival darling Tilda Swinton appears as an unnamed woman going through a major panic in some typically colourful surroundings for Almodovar. Primary colours galore!

Another Round (Druk)

The Hunt director Thomas Vinterburg reunites with Mads Mikkelsen as an unappreciated academic and husband who joins with his friends and peers in exploring the euphoria of consistent alcohol inebriation and whether it will bring pleasure to their lives. Expect some wild scenes!

BFI London Film Festival will run from October 7 to October 18, 2020, for tickets and information see here.

What films from the festival are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments below.

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