The UK has always offered a welcoming platform for international artists and storytellers, and none more so than the BFI London Film Festival. It is a time when filmmakers from every corner of the world gather here, among them some of the world’s greatest names in cinema, alongside those at the very beginning of their careers. All of them share a common purpose which is to present their new work to an audience and it is often a very special moment as it is usually only the first or second time it’s been seen. These are films that will challenge your perspective and pique your curiosity for fresh ideas and viewpoints.
The Festival is a truly international moment, as we open our arms to welcome filmmakers from over 70 countries. It’s a moment that puts the UK at the centre of the global film spotlight and it sends out a glorious message about our ambition to collaborate internationally.
The BFI is a charity and this Festival is only able to happen because of the extraordinary generosity of our longstanding partner American Express, alongside so many other partners, sponsors and funders, not least all the National Lottery players in the UK whose ticket buying is so vital to champion good causes including film. This is the perfect opportunity to extend our heartfelt thanks to them all and before you delve into the programme, I urge you to join me in loudly applauding all our supporters.
Chief Executive, BFI
“If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” Those are words spoken by Fred Rogers in Marielle Heller’s extraordinary A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. Like all good art, cinema helps us make sense of the world we live in. And this year, filmmakers are tackling burning issues of our time – often in surprising ways.
This has often been true of non-fiction filmmaking and there are urgent works among the 42 documentaries screening in 2019, including Feras Fayyad’s Syrian-set The Cave, and Sung-A Yoon’s Overseas, which details the exploitation of migrant workers. While in fiction, Haifaa Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate explores the power of local politics changing one mind at a time; Julius Onah’s Luce presents an ingenious dark drama tackling racial bias, and the emergent activists in Rubaiyat Hossain’s Made in Bangladesh take on deathly conditions in a Dhaka garment factory. No less vividly imaginative, other films incorporate wild irreverence and riotous energy, such as Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, a sharp-tongued corporate satire; Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ anarchic, bloody socio-political Western Bacurau; Mirrah Foulkes’ startling feminist fable Judy & Punch and Taika Waititi’s brilliant anti-nationalist, anti-racist satire Jojo Rabbit.
Boldness is notable this year in other ways, particularly commendable in a number of risk-taking debuts with filmmakers bringing uncompromising directorial voices to their first features: Mati Diop’s Atlantics, Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco and the UK’s own Rose Glass and Billie Piper with, respectively, the singular Saint Maud and the bitter, funny Rare Beasts.
Indeed, it’s been an extraordinary year for UK debuts in general: Calm with Horses, County Lines, The Deathless Woman, Days of the Bagnold Summer, Lynn + Lucy, Make Up, Nocturnal, Perfect 10, Pink Wall, Real, The Street, White Riot and Walking with Shadows. Our programming team has been hugely impressed by the diverse work from a new generation of filmmakers who reside in the UK. They join a thrilling international selection of work from 75 countries around the world.
On behalf of the programming team, I welcome you to the 63rd BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express. We hope you will be as shaken and stirred, provoked, astounded and electrified by the cinema here as we have been.
Festival Director, BFI London Film Festival
American Express partnership with the BFI
We are proud to partner with the BFI London Film Festival for the tenth consecutive year, giving cinema lovers, including our Cardmembers, access to this unique and special event. American Express is a long-standing supporter of film and we are excited to champion the best and brightest talent from across the industry. We hope you enjoy this year’s programme and look forward to seeing you there.
UK Country Manager – American Express UK