BFI London Film Festival 2020

The 2020 BFI London Film Festival 2020 from 7 to 18 October is the first edition to be widely accessible wherever you are in the UK, with over 50 virtual premieres, free online events and cinema screenings.

BFI LFF 2020

by Alexa Dalby

Here’s the Festival trailer:

The Festival opens with multi-award-winning visual artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen’s timely Mangrove, starring Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby. The film will receive its European Premiere on Wednesday 7 October and will screen for free to audiences at cinemas in cities across the UK as part of a unique partnership between the LFF, the BBC and selected independent cinemas. Marking 50 years since the events depicted in the film, Mangrove tells the true story of the Mangrove 9, the group of Black activists who clashed with London police during a protest march in 1970 and their highly publicised trial that followed. The film is part of Small Axe, a drama anthology which comprises five original films created by Steve McQueen for BBC One….

..and the Festival closes with Francis Lee’s biopic Ammonite, a film that is every bit as immersive, tactile and emotionally powerful as Francis Lee’s debut God’s Own Country, aided by a devastating performance by Kate Winslet and supported brilliantly by Saoirse Ronan. A fictionalised account of the life of the 19th century paleontologist Mary Anning, Winslet plays the pioneering scientist with Ronan as the gentlewoman who falls in love with her while staying in Mary’s beloved Lyme Regis. The film will receive its UK premiere on Saturday 17 October and will be available to UK audiences at cinemas across the UK, who will also enjoy a virtual introduction from Lee and key cast.

Experience new work from acclaimed masters such as Spike Lee, Josephine Decker, Chloé Zhao and Lav Diaz, get to know emerging directors, and experience breathtaking directorial debuts.

The strands return this year to help you navigate the programme – whether you’re feeling in the mood for a laugh, or prefer something daring to get your pulse racing, there’s a film for you!

As in previous years, the feature film programme is organised by strand to encourage discovery and to open up the Festival to new audiences. These are: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Cult, Journey, Create, Experimenta, Family andTreasures.


Sweet, passionate, tough, complex – the films here chart the highs and lows of many kinds of love from around the globe.

Harry Macqueen’s introspective road movie SUPERNOVA, a deeply affecting and quietly provocative exploration of love in the face of tragedy, is driven by beautiful performances from Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a couple with a long history and an uncertain future.

Based on personal experience, writer/director/star Matthew Fifer and co-director Kieran Mulcare have crafted a richly textured drama in CICADA, following the story of a young man living in New York who embarks on a new relationship and is forced to face the traumas of his past.

Joanna Scanlan is superb as a woman left reeling upon discovering her late husband’s secrets in AFTER LOVE, the knockout feature debut from BAFTA-nominated short filmmaker Aleem Khan.

Phyllida Lloyd reunites with her all-female Shakespeare collaborators, Clare Dunne and Harriet Walter, in HERSELF, a stirring drama about a woman who refuses to be broken. In DAYS, Tsai Ming-liang’s profound commitment to less is more flourishes in this exuberantly corporeal work, which is anchored by Lee Kang-shyung’s transfixing performance.

The Teddy Award winner for Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival, IF IT WERE LOVE, is Patric Chiha’s intoxicating dance piece that documents the production of choreographer Giselle Vienne’s Crowd, a visceral dance performance exploring the 90’s rave scene.

Migration, memory and the importance of home are deftly explored in FAREWELL AMOR, the affecting feature debut from Ekwa Msangi, which sees a New York-based Angolan man finally reunited with his wife and daughter.

Paula Beer embodies a modern-day incarnation of the mermaid myth in UNDINE, the latest from contemporary German cinema’s most audacious storyteller Christian Petzold.


Representing films that amplify, scrutinize and surprise, this year’s debate programme also features many powerful cinematic calls for social and racial justice.

In Farnoosh Samadi’s debut feature Iranian 180° RULE, she crafts a delicately woven portrait of tragedy whilst examining the structures that subtly control women’s lives.

Rob Lemkin’s harrowing yet urgent documentary AFRICAN APOCALYPSE shines a lens on the trauma and legacy of colonialism in one of Africa’s poorest nations, Niger.

Documentary love story TIME is Garrett Bradley’s poignant feature documentary debut following Fox Richardson who has spent over 20 years campaigning for the release of her husband who was sentenced to life without parole for a botched armed robbery.

IDENTIFYING FEATURES is a compelling first feature from Fernanda Valadez that finds a mother embarking on an Odyssey-like search for her missing son across the Mexican border terrain where law and order has effectively broken down.

South Londoner Yemi Bamiro’s pacey, engrossing documentary ONE MAN AND HIS SHOES reveals the darker side of marketing trainers, examining the cultural and commercial phenomena of Michael Jordan against the increasing commodification of Black culture and a lack of corporate accountability.

Bohdan Sláma’s striking epic SHADOW COUNTRY is a unique account of life in a Czech-Austrian border village from the 1930s-1950s, which saw a community sacrificed to political ideology.

Since 1969 there have been over 2000 deaths in police custody in the UK and this frightening statistic is approached with seasoned conviction in ULTRAVIOLENCE, Ken Fero’s follow up to his ground-breaking film Injustice.

In INDUSTRY a group of young graduates navigate the cutthroat world of international finance in this electrifying series from British writing duo Konrad Kay and Mickey Down, executive produced by Lena Dunham.


From laugh-out-loud comedy to dry and understated, Laugh (proudly supported by American Express) celebrates humour in many forms.Writer-director Talya Lavie follows a quarrelling couple who hit the streets of Jerusalem on their wedding night to confront family, ex-partners and random oddballs on whether they have a future together in HONEYMOOD.

In KAJILLIONAIRE, Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger play a family of unusually creative grifters trying to scam the system in director Miranda July’s deadpan, offbeat love story.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN, the latest feature by LFF regular Malgorzata Szumowska, is a characteristically fresh, funny and thought-provoking tale highlighting the indiscreet charms of the Polish bourgeoisie.


In-your-face, up-front and arresting films in Dare take you out of your comfort zone.  The strand is proudly supported by The May Fair Hotel.

Josephine Decker’s psychodrama SHIRLEY, sees a brilliant Elisabeth Moss as writer Shirley Jackson, get the inspiration she needs for her novel about the disappearance of a local girl when two young newlyweds come to stay.

A formal and disarming brilliance characterises director Francisco Márquez’s A COMMON CRIME, following the story of economics lecturer Cecilia, who refuses to let the son of her housekeeper into the house one stormy night and is forced to face the consequences of her decision after he disappears.

Like a twisted gothic fairy tale, the D’Innocenzo brothers’ impressive second feature BAD TALES follows the dark doings of a group of dysfunctional families during a sweltering Roman summer.

Bassam Tariq’s visceral directorial debut, MOGUL MOWGLI, co-written with Riz Ahmed, follows a British-Pakistani rapper (portrayed by Ahmed) whose life spirals out of control when, on the cusp of success, he succumbs to a debilitating illness.

Érica Rivas plays an overdub artist on the edge in THE INTRUDER, a playful and deeply enjoyable giallo-infused Argentinian psycho-thriller directed by Natalia Meta.

In NEW ORDER, a society wedding in a gated home in Mexico City serves as the ground for Michel Franco’s taut and terrifying exploration of class schisms, inequalities and corruption.

Idiosyncratic auteur Abel Ferrara returns with SIBERIA, an extraordinarily vivid, visually dazzling and characteristically strange rumination on sex, dreams and death, starring Willem Dafoe.

Sisterly bonds are pushed to breaking point in WILDFIRE, a simmering drama set on the Irish border, the debut feature from acclaimed shorts director Cathy Brady.


From the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror, our 2020 Cult strand features strong stories centred on and directed by women.

Brandon Cronenberg’s nightmarish follow-up to 2012’s Antiviral, POSSESSOR is an insanely enjoyable and graphically gruesome identity-swap thriller starring Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos, a psychic and possibly psychotic hitwoman-for-hire, who hijacks other people’s minds and manipulates them into carrying out undetectable murder-suicides.

Three generations of women are plagued by a supernatural presence in Natalie Erika James’ immensely satisfying directorial debut RELIC, which stars Emily Mortimer.

UK director Jennifer Sheridan has crafted a darkly claustrophobic horror experience in her debut ROSE, an inspired twist on the vampire myth that follows an isolated couple who must keep a dark secret hidden at all costs.


Whether it’s the journey or the destination, these films will transport you and shift your perspective. The strand is proudly supported by American Airlines.

Sibling directing duo Bill and Turner Ross document the last night ever at the Roaring 20’s cocktail lounge in BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS, tapping into the community spirit that local bars engender and the real connections people make in unexpected places.

Mads Mikkelsen reunites with Thomas Vinterberg in ANOTHER ROUND, a spirited and thought-provoking drama that asks if a regular tipple is the key to unlocking the best version of yourself.

Visionary Filipino director Lav Diaz returns with GENUS PAN, another beguiling allegory of human greed and brutality.

GOLD FOR DOGS is the provocative tale of a young woman lost in Paris and represents a dazzling debut showcase for writer/director Anna Cazenave Cambet and a fearless lead performance by Tallulah Cassavetti.

Peter Murimi’s courageous feature debut I AM SAMUEL offers an intimate portrait of a young gay Kenyan couple as they navigate their way in a country where homosexuality is criminalised.

Veteran documentarian Gianfranco Rosi’s delicate and poignant feature NOTTURNO journeys into the border communities of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon.

Rezwan Sumit’s directorial debut THE SALT IN OUR WATERS follows a young artist who relocates to coastal Bangladesh to practice his art, but in doing so up-turns the local community’s age-old customs and taboos.

A soulful new voice emerges in Elizabeth Lo’s evocative award-winning debut documentary STRAY, which details life on the streets of Istanbul from the perspective of the city’s stray dogs.

Based on Naoki Higashida’s ground-breaking memoir, THE REASON I JUMP is award-winning director Jerry Rothwell’s compelling and rare cinematic and sensorial insight into the world of people with nonspeaking autism.

Arie and Chuko Esiri’s stunning debut EYIMOFE takes Nigerian cinema to incredible new heights in a richly woven tale of city life.

In A DAY OFF FOR KASUMI ARIMURA, Japanese actor Kasumi Arimura plays a fictional version of herself in this charming example of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s rarely seen television work.

In NOMADLAND, Frances McDormand illuminates Chloé Zhao’s follow-up to The Rider, a humane and lyrical film about people living on the road in the American West.


The Create strand (proudly supported by The Mayor of London through Film London) channels the electricity of the creative process, celebrating artistic expression in all its forms.

In DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA, Spike Lee transforms David Byrne’s wildly popular Broadway show into immersive, dynamic cinema that radiates with astounding performances, inventive contemporary dance and political urgency.

In DELIA DERBYSHIRE: THE MYTHS AND LEGENDARY TAPES, director Caroline Catz traces acoustic pathways on her archaeological dig into the resonant life of audio exploration and psycho-acoustics pioneer Delia Derbyshire, famed for conceiving one of the most familiar compositions in science fiction, the Doctor Who theme.

Shot in 35mm and paying homage to London’s rock scene, ZANKA CONTACT is Ismael El Iraki’s intoxicating debut, apsychedelic Casablanca-set love story between faded rock star Larsen Snake and jaded prostitute Rajae.

Winner of the Creative Storytelling Prize at Sundance, Benjamin Ree’s genre-blending documentary THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF explores the personal repercussions of an extraordinary art heist.

In STRIDING INTO THE WIND, writer/director Wei Shujun presents a restless odyssey of the post-90s generation in Beijing, centring on the wayward life of hard-headed film school dropout Kun.

Executive produced by Alfonso Cuarón and directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, THE DISCIPLE is a sublime Mumbai-set sophomore feature that finds a classically trained musician both striving for and questioning the notion of excellence.


Showcasing films for the young, as well as the young at heart.

SOUL marks Director Pete Docter’s latest big-screen adventure since Inside Out. Here Docter teams up with Kemp Powers, who co-directs and wrote the screenplay with Docter and Mike Jones.

Another knock-out animation from Pixar with an all-star cast led by Jamie Foxx, SOUL tells the story of Joe Gardner, a musician who finds himself embarking on an unexpected journey of self-discovery to The Great Before.

In WOLFWALKERS, Cartoon Saloon follow up their acclaimed The Breadwinner and The Song of the Sea with another beautifully realised animated drama for all ages, this one set 17th-century in the Irish city of Kilkenny, occupied by Cromwell’s forces.

This year’s Treasures strand brings recently restored cinematic classics and discoveries from archives around the world to audiences across the UK.

In FRIENDSHIP’S DEATH Tilda Swinton plays an extra-terrestrial android discussing life’s big questions with a British war correspondent in this unique sci-fi by influential film theorist Peter Wollen. The screening will be followed by a special event exploring Wollen’s important legacy as a thinker, historian and practitioner.

The rediscovery and 4K restoration of Mohammad Reza Aslani’s landmark of Iran’s pre-revolution cinema THE CHESS GAME OF THE WIND is a revelation, a decadent family thriller told with unsettling control and restraint.

Beautifully restored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, THE CHEATERS is a suspenseful melodrama by filmmaking pioneers the McDonagh sisters that charts the adventures of a con-woman.

Experimenta features films and videos by artists that revolutionise and reshape our vision of cinema.

All films in this section are eligible for Virtual LFF Audience Awards.

SOUND FOR THE FUTURE is an affectionate and hilarious reconstruction of story of The Hippies, Britain’s youngest punk band, formed by artist Matt Hulse and his siblings in 1979. The film will be showing with HAPPY THUGGISH PAKI, an exhilarating rumination on the process of animation and the language of video games takes its cue from the origin of the word ‘thug’ in British-India.

The Experimenta strand will also include a collection of short and medium length films within the following categories:  Exposing Territories – films that bear testimony to oppressive histories of confinement, restriction, violence, and their consequences. Speculative Futures – films that consider the futures we might gift, extrapolate or create from our present tensions, through the eyes of those bequeathed.

There’s a full programme of the Festival’s reimagined and innovative new 2020 offering that will be delivered both virtually and via physical screenings.

Over the twelve days from 7-18 October, the Festival will be its most accessible ever, presenting over 50 Virtual Premieres and a selection of highly-anticipated new feature film previews at BFI Southbank as well as in cinemas across the UK, offering audiences a unique chance to engage with the Festival in different ways.

With work from more than 40 countries, the programme includes fiction, documentary, animation, artists’ moving image, short film, restored classics from the world’s archives as well as previews of several episodic/series-based works made for the small screen.

Every screening will be presented with an intro or Q&A from filmmakers and programmers. The Festival also includes many ways audiences can engage with the Festival for free: LFF Opening screenings of Mangrove in cinemas across the UK; selected feature films on BFI Player; an international programme of short films featuring established and breakthrough film talents; Screen Talks with major filmmakers and actors, as well as all online salons and Q&As across the Festival which will give audiences an opportunity to delve more deeply into themes and talking points emerging from the programme. The recently announced LFF Expanded strand of XR and Immersive Art will also be free to access both virtually and at BFI Southbank for the duration of the Festival.

All films are geo-blocked to the UK while all the Festival talks and LFF Expanded are available to experience for free from anywhere in the world.

As is befitting this audience-facing and innovative edition, this year the Festival Awards are in the hands of the audience, who will take the place of the Festival’s Official Jury. Viewers engaging with the Festival online will be invited to vote on Virtual LFF Audience Awards in four categories: Best Fiction Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Short Film, and Best XR.

The winners will be announced in a live online ceremony on the final weekend of the Festival. We will also announce The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI winner at the Awards Ceremony. The Bursary benefits an outstanding first or second time British writer, director, or writer/director. The recipient of the award will receive £50,000, which is the most significant of its kind in the UK film industry and awarded annually.

All contemporary features showing on BFI Player are eligible for the Virtual LFF Audience Awards, which for the first time gives the jury’s power back to the audience.


Alphabetical list of features screening (programme details below)
V = Virtual Premiere / C = in cinemas across the UK

All contemporary films screening as Virtual Premieres are eligible for Virtual LFF Audience Awards for Best Film or Best Documentary.

180° RULE | Farnoosh Samadi | Iran | 2020 | Debate | V
200 METERS | Ameen Nayfeh | Palestine | 2020 | Debate | V
A COMMON CRIME | Francisco Márquez | Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland 2020 | Dare | V
A DAY-OFF OF KASUMI ARIMURA | d. Hirokazu Kore-eda | w. Sakura Higa | Japan 2020 |Journey (Series) | V
AFRICAN APOCALYPSE | Rob Lemkin | UK 2020 | Debate | V
AFTER LOVE | Aleem Khan | UK 2020 | Love | V + C
AMMONITE | Francis Lee| UK 2020 | Closing Film | C
ANOTHER ROUND | Thomas Vinterberg| Denmark 2020 | Journey | V + C
BAD TALES | Fabio D’Innocenzo, Damiano D’Innocenzo | Italy 2020 | Dare | V
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKET | Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross | USA 2020 | Journey | V
THE CHEATERS | Paulette McDonagh | Australia 1929 | Treasures | V
THE CHESS GAME OF THE WIND | Mohammad Reza Aslani | Iran 1976 | Treasures | V
CICADA | Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare | USA 2020 | Love | V
DAYS | Tsai Ming-Liang | Taiwan 2020 | Love | V*
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA | Spike Lee | USA 2020 | Create | V + C
THE DISCIPLE | Chaitanya Tamhane | India 2020 | Create | V
FAREWELL AMOR | Ekwa Msangi | USA 2020 | Love | V
FRIENDSHIP’S DEATH | Peter Wollen | UK 1987 | Treasures | V
GENUS PAN | Lav Diaz | Philippines 2020 | Journey | V
GOLD FOR DOGS | Anna Cazenave Cambet | France 2020 | Journey | V
HERSELF | Phyllida Lloyd | UK 2020 | Love | V + C
HONEYMOOD | Talya Lavie | Israel 2020 | Laugh | V
I AM SAMUEL | Pete Murimi | Kenya 2020 | Journey | V
IDENTIFYING FEATURES | Fernanda Valadez | Mexico-Spain 2020 | Journey | V
IF IT WERE LOVE | Patric Chiha | France 2020 | Love | V
INDUSTRY | d. Lena Dunham, Tinge Krishnan, Ed Lilly | w. Mickey Down, Konrad Kay | UK 2020 | Journey (Series) | V
THE INTRUDER | Natalia Meta | Argentina-Mexico 2020 | Dare | V
KAJILLIONAIRE | Miranda July | USA 2020 | Laugh | V
LIMBO | Ben Sharrock | UK 2020 | Journey | V
MANGROVE | Steve McQueen | UK 2020 | Opening Film (Series) | C
MOGUL MOWGLI | Bassam Tariq | UK 2020 | Dare | V + C
NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN | Ma?gorzata Szumowska, Micha? Englert | Poland-Germany | Laugh | V
NEW ORDER | Michel Franco | Mexico 2020 | Dare | V
NOMADLAND | Chloé Zhao | USA 2020 | Journey | C
NOTTURNO | Gianfranco Rosi | Italy-Germany-France 2020 | Journey | V
ONE MAN AND HIS SHOES | Yemi Bamiro | UK 2020 | Debate | V
THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF | Benjamin Ree | Norway 2020 | Create | V
POSSESSOR | Brandon Cronenberg | Canada-UK 2020 | Cult | V
THE REASON I JUMP | Jerry Rothwell | UK 2020 | V
RELIC | Natalie Erika James | Australia-USA 2020 | Cult | V
ROSE | Jennifer Sheridan | UK 2020 | Cult | V
THE SALT IN OUR WATERS | Rezwan Shahriar Sumit | Bangladesh-France 2020| Journey | V
SHADOW COUNTRY | Bohdan Sláma | Czech Republic 2020 | Debate | V
SHIRLEY | Josephine Decker | USA 2020 | Dare | V + C
SIBERIA | Abel Ferrara | Italy-Germany-Mexico 2020 | Dare | V
SOUL | Pete Docter, Kemp Powers | USA 2020 | Family | C
SOUND FOR THE FUTURE | Matt Hulse | UK-China 2020 | Experimenta | V
STRAY | Elizabeth Lo | USA 2020 | Journey | V
STRIDING INTO THE WIND | Wei Shujun | China 2020 | Create | V
SUPERNOVA | Harry Macqueen | UK 2020 | Love | V + C
THIS IS MY DESIRE (EYIMOFE) | Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri | Nigeria 2019 | V
TIME | Garrett Bradley | USA 2020 | Debate | V + C
ULTRAVIOLENCE | Ken Fero | UK 2020 | Debate | V
UNDINE | Christian Petzold | Germany 2020 | V + C
WILDFIRE | Cathy Brady | UK-Ireland 2020 | Dare | V
WOLFWALKERS | Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart | Ireland-Luxembourg-France 2020 |Family | V
ZANKA CONTACT | Ismaël El Iraki | France-Morocco-Belgium 2020 | Create | V

*DAYS will have a single cinema screenings at ICA and BFI Southbank

This year the Festival moves beyond the cinemas of London, with 54 virtual premieres on BFI Player and 13 exclusive previews playing at BFI Southbank and partner cinemas across London – as well as in Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The Festival announces:

· A vibrant programme of 58 films from around the world screening to audiences across the whole of the UK as Virtual Premieres
· A selection of exclusive previews screen in cinemas across the UK
· A free-to-access programme of selected features and all short films, talks and XR/Immersive works
· A programme of 21 XR and Immersive works, including a commission of a brand new 360-degree version of Darren Emerson’s acclaimed COMMON GROUND

Shorts, talks and events will all be free this year. The full events programme, which will be accessible worldwide, will be announced later in the month.

Explore the programme online:

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