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Venice Opener ‘Downsizing,’ Richard Linklater’s ‘Last Flag Flying’ Among London Film Festival Lineup

Cate Blanchett, David Fincher and Takashi Miike to Take Part in Festival Talks

Social division and immigration are set to be “hot topics” at the 61st BFI London Film Festival, according to festival director Clare Stewart. Announcing the lineup for the festival’s 2017 edition Thursday, Stewart said: “In these globally tumultuous times, filmmakers around the world have increasingly urgent stories to tell and more reasons than ever to reimagine our reality.”

Revealing the 242-film lineup, Stewart highlighted examples of films throughout the program that deal variously with issues of social division and immigration in modern society. These include Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” (pictured), which just opened the Venice Film Festival and which receives its U.K. premiere with a Headline Gala in London; Palestinian official competition title “Wajib”; documentary competition title “Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time,” about life in an offshore detention center; first feature “Most Beautiful Island,” about a Spanish refugee in New York; and Martin McDonagh’s closing-night film, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which Stewart described as having an undercurrent of social division.

Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” will receive its international premiere at the festival with a Headline Gala. Other red-carpet events include the European premieres of Paul McGuigan’s “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” Saul Dibb’s “Journey’s End,” and Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” and the U.K. premieres of Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name,” Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here.” The full lineup includes 29 world premieres, eight international premieres, 34 European premieres and 169 U.K. premieres.

As previously announced, the festival will open with the European premiere of Andy Serkis’ directorial debut “Breathe.” American Express Headline Gala “Battle of the Sexes” was also previously announced.

Cate Blanchett will head up the LFF Connects program in conversation with Julian Rosenfeldt, director of “Manifesto,” in which the actress plays 13 different characters. Director David Fincher, who is presenting the first two episodes of new Netflix show “Mindhunter” as the LLF Connects Special Presentation screening, will also take part in one of the talks, which are designed to stimulate new collaborations and ideas between filmmakers and creative leaders across the worlds of film, television, music, art, games and creative technology. Other participants include composer Nitin Sawhney, author Ian McEwan, leading VR specialist Johan Knattrup Jensen, and A.I. entrepreneur Demis Hassabis. Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike will additionally take part in a festival Screen Talk.

Stewart said that the festival remains focused in its desire to highlight films from a diverse range of filmmakers, championing new films from ethnic minority and women filmmakers and about diverse characters and subjects. More than 60 women directors are represented in the feature program, accounting for approximately 25% of the total program, including four in the official competition lineup and five in the first features section. She also highlighted titles including Joachim Trier’s “Thelma” and Robin Campillo’s “120 Beats Per Minute” as examples of what she said had been “an extraordinary year for LGBT cinema.”

The festival will also see the return of its purpose-built Embankment Gardens Cinema, the 820-seat pop-up venue that made its debut at the 2016 festival, accounting for 26,000 of the 2016 festival’s 28,000 (18%) bump in ticket sales over 2015. The venue, which has been shortlisted as Best Outdoor Experience 2016 at the U.K. Event Awards, will once again be the home of the festival’s strand galas and official competition titles.

The competition lineup includes the world premiere of Majid Majidi’s “Beyond the Clouds”; European premieres for Xavier Beauvois’ “The Guardians,” Azazel Jacobs’ “The Lovers” and Cory Finley’s “Thoroughbred”; and U.K. premieres for Campillo’s “120 Beats Per Minute,” Vivian Qu’s “Angels Wear White,” Nora Twomey’s “The Breadwinner,” Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s “Good Manners,” Andrew Haigh’s “Lean on Pete,” Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless,” Thornton’s “Sweet Country,” and Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib.”

As usual the festival’s program is organized into thematic strands, with an 11th strand, Create, added this year. Stewart says the new strand will celebrate the creative process “in all its forms” including music, film, art and dance. The Create gala will be Michel Hazanavicius’ “Redoubtable.” Other films in the new strand include the U.K. premiere of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s fully painted animated film “Loving Vincent,” which will be broadcast live to cinemas across the U.K. from London’s National Gallery; Rosenfeldt’s “Manifesto”; and Abbas Kiarostami’s final film, “24 Frames.”

Other strand galas include: Francois Ozon’s “Amant Double” (Dare); Miike’s “Blade of the Immortal” (Thrill); Noah Baumbach’s Netflix feature “The Meyerowitz Stories [New and Selected]” (Laugh); Trier’s “Thelma” (Cult); and Todd Haynes “Wonderstruck” (Journey).

The 61st BFI London Film Festival runs Oct. 4-15. Record attendance at last year’s festival totaled 184,700.

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