London Film Festival hits the road this year, with a new hybrid format that sees its extensive film programme split between digital streaming and live cinema screenings across the country. In Manchester, HOME play host to a selection of brand new films, starting on Wednesday 7 October with Steve McQueen’s Mangrove, and concluding with Francis Lee’s Ammonite on Saturday 17 October.
The move to open up the festival means that more people than ever can participate. Jason Wood, Director of Film and Culture at HOME, said: “It’s an important development in the evolution of the festival as it genuinely encourages audiences across the country to engage with a wider diversity of cinematic culture. It also serves as an act of unity, moving away from the notion of London as the epicentre of culture.”
“It also serves as an act of unity, moving away from the notion of London as the epicentre of culture.”
Film fans can expect big stars and big directors as HOME’s selection of films explore everything from serious social issues to the sheer joy of live music. Part of McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series focussing on life for London’s West Indian community between the 1960s and 1980s, fest opener Mangrove sees the British filmmaker return home following Hollywood successes 12 Years a Slave and Widows. The film, which will screen for free, follows the infamous 55-day trial of nine activists wrongly arrested for incitement for riot.
Elizabeth Moss stars as a successful horror writer in Shirley, the latest psychodrama from director Josephine Decker on Friday 9 Oct. Also starring Michael Stuhlbarg, the film is billed as “blurring the boundaries of biopic and fiction in exploring the cruel forces that can feed creativity.” Another boundary pusher comes from Chloé Zhao, who casts Frances McDormand as an off-the-grid traveller in Nomadland (Fri 16 Oct.) As in her previous work, Zhao finds authenticity by having real people play versions of themselves.
Harry Macqueen’s Supanova (Mon 12 Oct) pairs acting heavyweights Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a couple who travel across England in a campervan, as the realities of early onset dementia impact upon their twenty-year relationship. Garrett Bradley’s Time is a revealing look at the devastating effects of mass incarceration on Black communities in America, which follows the campaigning of Fox Richardson, and her fight for the release of her husband who was sentenced to life without parole for a botched armed robbery.
Closer to home, Bassam Tariq’s directorial debut Mogul Mowgli (Tue 15 Oct) is about a British-Pakistani rapper whose life is spiralling out of control – the film is co-written by the electric Riz Ahmed, who also takes the starring role. There’s another British debut feature from BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Aleem Khan. Khan’s After Love stars Joanna Scanlan as a widow in Dover who stumbles across her husband’s secret connection across the Channel on Thu 15 Oct.
Our most anticipated title is the new Spike Lee joint: David Byrne’s American Utopia (Wed 14 Oct). Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is a high watermark for the form, so it should be fascinating to see what Lee can do with the band’s lead singer, as he brings Byrne’s exuberant live show to the cinema screen.
Finally, Ammonite looks like a fitting closer to London Film Festival’s most accessible edition ever. New from Gods Own Country director Francis Lee, the much-anticipated film is a fictionalised account of the life of 19th century palaeontologist (Kate Winslet), who falls in love with a gentlewoman (Saoirse Ronan) who visits her in her beloved Lyme Regis. We’re promised moving performances, roaring seascapes, and a potent look at class and women’s erasure from the history of science.