The world premiere of Chan-wook Park’s first television series, “The Little Drummer Girl,” will take place at the BFI London Film Festival, alongside U.K. premieres for the latest films from acclaimed filmmakers Luca Guadagnino, Alfonso Cuaron and the Coen brothers. The festival will also feature an increased representation of female filmmakers, with three of its competition strands achieving gender parity.
Announcing the full program for the festival’s 62nd edition Thursday, artistic director Tricia Tuttle said: “We’re always very keen and conscious to represent the global diversity of cinema. London is a global city, and we think the audiences reflect that.”
The festival will feature a world premiere special presentation of the first two episodes of Korean filmmaker Park’s “The Little Drummer Girl.” The six-part drama (pictured) is the BBC and AMC’s latest John Le Carre adaptation following their Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning “The Night Manager.” It will debut on AMC Nov. 19-21.
Tuttle said “The Little Drummer Girl” would be the only TV title presented at the festival but that the combination of its London setting, a well-known cinema director in Park, and a strong cast including Florence Pugh, Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgard made it the right fit. A regular at the festival Park’s most recent film, “The Handmaiden,” which won the BAFTA award for best film not in the English language earlier this year, screened at BFI London Film Festival in 2016. The director took part in a festival Screen Talk the same year.
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In total, the festival will present 225 features from 75 countries, including 21 world premieres, 9 international premieres and 29 European premieres. Newly announced films seeing European premieres at the festival include Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Jason Reitman’s “The Front Runner,” starring Hugh Jackman. Tuttle, taking over this year from Clare Stewart, who is on sabbatical, said it was a “slightly slimmed-down program” from 2017’s 248 features. “It’s a purposeful toning of the festival and gives every film more breathing space,” said Tuttle.
She was eager to highlight the strong representation across the program of films by female directors, saying that finding new female voices in film was close to her heart. The festival has achieved gender parity among filmmakers across three of its four competition strands: official competition, first feature and short film. Overall, the program sees 38% of films coming from female directors, including 30% of features – up from 24% in 2017.
“It’s not been that difficult to increase it,” Tuttle said. “We don’t set quotas in the programming team. We are trying to serve the program and audiences. We’ve genuinely found this incredibly rich talent. What I hope is happening is we’re seeing a real value chain where the industry is nurturing new voices.”
New program announcements receiving gala screenings include a number of Amazon Studios and Netflix titles. These include Guadagnino’s “Suspiria,” which was recently picked up for U.K. theatrical distribution by MUBI; David Mackenzie’s “Outlaw King,” which sees its European premiere in London; the Coens’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”; and Cuaron’s “Roma.”
Tuttle said the festival had good relationships with the SVOD companies, and the only consideration when programming was “about providing good cinematic experiences for audiences.”
Cuaron will also take part in a Screen Talk event at the festival. Other Screen Talks will be given by actress Keira Knightley and Korean auteur Chang-dong Lee, whose latest films, “Colette” and “Burning,” respectively, will also receive gala screenings at the festival.
Other newly announced gala screenings include Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself”; “Beautiful Boy,” starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet; the European premiere of Tom Harper’s “Wild Rose”; “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, starring Melissa McCarthy; Cannes Un Certain Regard winner “Border”; Matthew Heineman’s “A Private War”; Cannes Jury Prize winner “Capernaum”; Sam Levinson’s “Assassination Nation”; Japanese anime “Mirai”; Ralph Fiennes’ “The White Crow”; and Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”
Tuttle said securing the Gilliam film had always been high on the programming team’s list of goals and that its well-documented legal troubles, and the fact that Amazon backed out of U.K. distribution for the film in May, were not a hindrance. “That was always one we wanted to get in the program,” said Tuttle. “There’s massive interest in Terry in the U.K. He’s a filmmaker that’s very dear to the festival.”
Other special presentations include the world premiere of Tinge Krishnan’s musical “Been So Long,” starring Michaela Coel, and George Tillman, Jr.’s “The Hate U Give,” which has its world premiere in Toronto Sept. 7. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” will also receive a special presentation.
One of the biggest challenges facing the festival this year has been capacity, given that the 1,600-seat Odeon Leicester Square, which usually serves as the festival’s hub for gala premieres, is currently closed for refurbishment. Tuttle said the Odeon represented as many as 35,000 admissions in past years. This year the festival’s biggest venue will be its returning pop-up Embankment Gardens site, an 800-seat venue with 4K digital projection. This will be supported by the first-time use of the 720-seat main screen at Cineworld Leicester Square and increased usage of some other venues.
“It is not exactly the same capacity as last year, but it is close,” Tuttle said. She also said a big ambition for the BFI in general was to have more reach across the U.K., with simulcasts to cinemas across the country to some of its gala premieres. These include the U.K. premiere of Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo” which, in an unusual move, will take place in the city of Manchester, where the film’s events take place – the first time one of the festival’s premieres has taken place outside London.
Tuttle said this year she had noticed a particular emergence of sub-Saharan African female filmmakers in the program, such as South Africa’s Sara Blecher with “Mayfair” and Wanuri Kahiu’s Kenyan LGBT story “Rafiki.” She was also struck by the number of films dealing with “activism and political awakening, particularly amongst young people,” and how many filmmakers were “grappling with race and racism.”
The 10 films competing in the festival’s official competition section will judged by a jury led by Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson. Paul Dano’s directorial debut will be among the 10 titles competing in the festival’s first feature lineup.
The 62nd BFI London Film Festival runs Oct. 10-21. As previously announced the festival will open with the European premiere of Steve McQueen’s “Widows” and close with the world premiere of Laurel and Hardy biopic “Stan & Ollie.”