Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts” will receive gala presentations at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival. Announcing the full program lineup Thursday, festival director Tricia Tuttle also revealed that new films from veteran filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones and “Still Alice” director Wash Westmoreland will world-premiere at the festival.
Westmoreland’s noir thriller “Earthquake Bird,” starring Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander, will make its debut in London, one of several Netflix titles at the festival. As well as Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which had previously been announced as the closing film, David Michod’s Shakespearean adaptation “The King” with Timothee Chalamet, Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, and Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, will all receive gala screenings in the lineup.
Netflix’s presence at other festivals has caused controversy, such as in Cannes and Berlin, but that is not the case in London, Tuttle said. “A theatrical release is never a condition for us,” said Tuttle.
French titles “Atlantics” and “I Lost My Body,” which Netflix acquired following wins at the Cannes Film Festival, will also play at the festival.
Caton-Jones will debut his 1990s-set comedy-drama, now titled “Our Ladies,” at the festival. The film tells the story of a group of Scottish Catholic school girls who get an opportunity to go to Edinburgh for a choir competition but are more interested in drinking, partying and hooking up than winning the competition.
Waititi’s satirical “Jojo Rabbit” will have its European premiere at the festival as a Headline Gala. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Heller’s followup to her Oscar-nominated “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, which played at the festival last year, will play as the upcoming edition’s Patron’s Gala also as a European premiere. “The Aeronauts,” which reunites “The Theory of Everything” co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, makes its U.K. premiere as the Mayor’s Gala.
Bruce Springsteen is also set to attend the festival with his performance documentary “Western Stars,” which will receive its European premiere with a gala screening at the head of the festival’s Create strand.
There will also be a special gala presentation of Episodes 1, 5, 6 and 8 of Lukas Moodysson’s first venture into television, “Gosta.”
Also previously announced, Armando Iannucci’s “The Personal History of David Copperfield” will open the festival, while Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” will have a gala screening. Both titles make their European premieres at the festival.
Both Moodysson and Johnson will take part in Screen Talk events at the festival, as will British documentarian Kim Longinotto.
Other gala screenings include Michael Winterbottom’s corporate satire, “Greed”; Sarah Gavron’s “Rocks”; William Nicholson’s “Hope Gap,” starring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy; James Mangold’s “Ford vs. Ferrari,” titled “Le Mans ’66” in the U.K.; Pablo Larrain’s “Ema”; Dreamworks Animation and Pearl Studio title “Abominable,” which received the family gala screening; Kleber Mendonca Filho’s “Bacurau,” which played in Cannes; South Korean body-swap comedy “The Dude in Me,” from director Hyo-jin Kang; Robert Egger’s “The Lighthouse”; Gavin Hood’s “Official Secrets”; Roger Michell’s “Blackbird”; and Tyler Wilson and Mike Schwartz’s “The Peanut Butter Falcon.”
Other newly announced world premieres in the program include “Muscle,” from “Hyena” director Gerard Johnson, and Welsh actor-turned-director Craig Roberts’ “Eternal Beauty,” starring Oscar-nominee Sally Hawkins.
In total the festival boasts 28 world premieres as well as three restoration world premieres. There are 12 films making their international premieres in London; 29 European premieres; and 155 U.K. premieres.
Outside of the gala screenings program highlights also include Benedict Andrews’ “Seberg,” starring Kristen Stewart, and Ciro Guerra’s “Waiting for the Barbarians,” both making their U.K. debuts; Shonali Bose’s biopic of Aisha Chaudhary, “The Sky Is Pink,” starring Priyanka Chopra, and Amazon Studios’ ensemble drama “The Report,” starring Adam Driver, both receiving European premieres; and the latest films from festival veterans including Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, and Agnieska Holland.
In total, the program features 229 features and 116 shorts from 78 countries with 40% of the program directed or co-directed by female filmmakers – up from 38% in 2018.
Tuttle, who served as the festival’s artistic director last year and was announced as the new director of BFI festivals at the close of the 62nd edition, said that the rising numbers of female filmmakers in the program was encouraging. On Wednesday, the festival unveiled its competition lineup, 60% of whose entries were directed or co-directed by female filmmakers.
“It’s nice to be able to talk about, but we don’t program to quotas,” Tuttle said. “Every filmmaker earned their place. We try to think about who’s telling the story, whose story is it.”
But Tuttle still believes female filmmakers are “not being invested in at the same level,” citing Heller as one of the few female directors able to have a new film ready for consecutive festivals. “What we’re seeing is hopefully a long-term shift in representation in the industry,” said Tuttle. “It is shifting, but incrementally.”
Tuttle said the London Film Festival programming team had seen an “incredible strength in [feature] debuts this year,” highlighting titles such as French filmmaker Mati Diop’s “Atlantics”; 19-year-old director Phillip Youmans’ Tribeca prize-winning drama “Burning Cane”; and Australian director Mirrah Foulkes’ “Judy & Punch,” which receives its European premiere with a gala screening at the head of the Dare strand.
Tuttle also praised the rising British talent on display, including Rose Glass, whose horror debut, “Saint Maud,” receives its European premiere at the festival as part of the official competition lineup, and actress Billie Piper’s anti-romcom “Rare Beasts.”
The newly refurbished Odeon Luxe Leicester Square will once again serve as home for key galas, after having been unavailable to the festival last year while it was undergoing extensive renovation. The luxury site’s capacity was more than halved during its transformation, from 1,683 to 800, and Tuttle said venue capacity for the festival “remains an issue.”
However, she said overall capacity would remain level with 2018 with the festival utilising 18 screens across 12 London venues. The festival’s pop-up Embankment Gardens Cinema will return for a fourth year and share screenings of the gala program with the Odeon. Tuttle pointed out that the Embankment venue had hosted London Film Festival screenings of eventual Oscar winners including “Moonlight,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Roma,” “The Favourite” and “Green Book” in recent years, joking there was “no pressure” on this year’s selection.
Tuttle said creating opportunities for the public to engage further with the festival was key to her approach. The festival serves an audience of more than 200,000 each year. This year, for the first time, the festival will pilot a public hub, as well as its usual industry hub, with a takeover of the BFI Southbank for two days of free talks and events. “A sense of dialogue, debate about the festival is important to us – to have the collective experience,” said Tuttle.
The 63rd BFI London Film Festival is run in partnership with American Express and runs Oct. 2-13.