The 65th BFI London Film Festival, which concluded Oct. 17, attracted crowds for in-person events and virtually. The festival unspooled over 12 days across London venues, 10 partner cinema venues around the U.K. and online. There were more than 139,000 physical attendances at screenings and events and over 152,000 virtual attendances.
The festival closed with the European premiere of “The Tragedy of Macbeth” at new festival venue, the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall with director Joel Coen and key cast, including Frances McDormand, in attendance.
There was a sting in the tail, however, as two people who attended the closing film and after party tested positive for COVID-19, compelling the BFI to send letters to attendees informing them about this. The positive tests came as no surprise as the U.K. is experiencing a dramatic surge in cases currently.
The array of celebrities who attended the festival in person included Jay Z, Beyonce, Idris Elba, Regina King, George Clooney, Todd Haynes, Dakota Johnson, Corey Hawkins, Liam Payne, Matt Smith, Edgar Wright, Jamie Dornan, Caitrona Balfe, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Murray, Jarvis Cocker, Virgine Efira, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sandra Oh, Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor, Jessie Buckley, Judi Dench, Brian Cox, Sarah Snook, Riz Ahmed, Kirsten Dunst, Ruth Negga, Rebecca Hall and Regé-Jean Page.
“Of course there were still major challenges but we brought the best of 2020 into our model, presenting physically, digitally, U.K.-wide and internationally,” said festival director Tricia Tuttle.
Principal photography has commenced on feature film “Allelujah,” starring Jennifer Saunders, Bally Gill, Russell Tovey, David Bradley, Derek Jacobi and Judi Dench. It is based on the stage play by Alan Bennett (“The Lady In The Van”) and is directed by Richard Eyre (“Notes on a Scandal”). The screenplay adaptation is by Heidi Thomas (“Call the Midwife”) and the film is produced by Damian Jones (“The Iron Lady”) and Kevin Loader (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”).
The dark comedy is set in a geriatric ward in a small Yorkshire hospital threatened with closure. The hospital decides to fight back by galvanizing the local community and they invite a news crew to film their preparations for a concert in honor of the hospital’s most distinguished nurse. But there is something threatening the hospital that is far more lethal than the politicians demanding efficiency at any cost.
“Allelujah” is a Pathé, BBC Film and Ingenious Media presentation of a DJ Films/Redstart Production. Executive producers are Cameron McCracken and Jenny Borgars for Pathé, Rose Garnett for BBC Film, Andrea Scarso for Ingenious Media and Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner.
Pathé will distribute the film in the U.K., France and Switzerland and will handle sales for the rest of the world.
Amazon Prime Video will launch detective comedy series “No Activity” in Japan from Dec. 17. The six-part show stars Toyokawa Etsushi as a low-ranked detective who shows little interest in his investigations and Nakamura Tomoya as a rookie cop who is all too eager to please. Direction is by Hanabusa Tsutomu (“Tokyo Revengers”) from an adapted script by Jiro, one half of the comedy duo Sissonne. The work is a localized adaptation of Australian firm Jungle Entertainment’s scripted format of the same title. While it is believed to be Amazon Japan’s first format buy, the show has previously been licensed for adaptation by CBS All Access/Paramount Plus (four seasons to date) in the U.S., HBO Max Spain, NPO3 for The Netherlands, Streamz for Belgium, RTL Now for Germany and OSN for the Middle East. – Patrick Frater
Myriad Pictures has acquired international sales rights acquisition of “India Sweets and Spices,” directed and written by Geeta Malik (“Troublemaker”) and starring Sophia Ali (“The Wilds”), Manisha Koirala (“Bombay”), Adil Hussain (“Life of Pi”), Rish Shah (“To All the Boys: Always and Forever”), Deepti Gupta (“Walkaway”) and Anita Kalathara (“Bombshell”).
The film follows Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali) who returns to her family’s posh suburban New Jersey home after a year away at college and upends their well-ordered life with her brash independence. After befriending Varun (Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the local Indian grocery, she invites his family to a dinner party where family secrets are revealed.
Myriad will present the film at the AFM virtual market in November. Bleecker Street will release the film theatrically in the U.S. on Nov. 19th.
The film is produced and financed by Madison Wells and SK Global Entertainment, and producers Naomi Despres (“Lizzie”), Sidney Kimmel (“Hell or High Water”), John Penotti (“Crazy Rich Asians”) and Gigi Pritzker (“The Eyes of Tommy Faye”). Executive producers include Adrian Alperovich, Kilian Kerwin, Mark O’Connor, Bruce Toll, and Rachel Shane.
Apple Chan, who appeared in Jack Neo’s 2017 film “Ah Boys To Men 4” and Xixi Lim, will be joined by social media influencer Samantha Tan, model Shirli Ling, Farah Farook and beauty contestant Eswari Gunasagar in “Ah Girls Go Army” as Singapore’s most commercially successful director Neo gives his military-comedy franchise a female skew. Many of the new recruits were called up via an online casting session. The film, produced by Neo’s J Team Productions and mm2 Entertainment, is set for delivery in less than four months, by Chinese New Year 2022. – Patrick Frater
The Busan International Film Festival‘s newly launched film studies program, BIFF Film Academy (BFA), is Korea’s first film degree education program established by a film festival. The program’s structure offers a convergence degree approach that links its curriculum with film industry networks and platforms of the festival. The program consists of three degrees – Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate. The program is operated in conjunction with the Im Kwon Taek College of Arts and Film at Dongseo University, which has been a partner of the Asian Film Academy for years.
The BFA program begins its first semester in March 2022, and admissions for the first graduating class are underway with a late November 2021 deadline for applications.