Adrian Wootton Curated Lists: BFI London Film Festival

Latest 6 Oct 2020

News Story

The BFI London Film Festival is the country’s most important single celebration of world cinema. We at Film London have been involved in the festival since the inception of the organisation (in 2003), and I personally have been involved in the LFF since the 1980s, first as a programmer, then as director, and, now, as an advisor. The festival is very important to Film London, and it’s very important to me.

Circumstances mean it’s a very different festival this year, a hybrid festival, with some content in cinemas, but the majority of the programme online. In some ways, this makes it more accessible to the whole of the UK – more people can watch the films, and, indeed, many more Londoners can access the festival. With augmented programming – television, episodic screenings, a whole AR/VR section – the festival has managed to expand its scope whilst being online.

Film London, supported by the Mayor of London, is still very much associated with the festival's industry programme, but is also supporting, again with the Mayor, the ‘Create’ strand of the public programme, with some great films I’d encourage you to have a look at.

For London, and for Film London, this is our home game: our home-grown festival with cultural relevance to our city and its myriad communities. I’m excited that many of Film London’s alumni, drawn from those diverse communities and stories, are represented in this year’s festival.

Film still from Daytimer, directed by Riz Ahmed

Daytimer, dir. Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed has co-written, produced, and stars in a new film called Mogul Mowgli, and we’re also doing a case study about it in our Production Finance Market, a big industry event we stage alongside LFF. This case study will be available to watch on our website after the event, so keep your eyes peeled! Riz is long-time Film London alumnus, having made his directorial debut with Daytimer through our London Calling Plus short film programme.

Aleem Khan, whose film After Love premieres at the festival and who is shortlisted for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, directed the BAFTA-nominated short, Three Brothers, commissioned by Film London on our inaugural London Calling Plus scheme, premiering at the 2014 London Film Festival.

Sweetheart, directed by Marley Morrison and part of our Film London Microwave slate, shows in the new works-in-progress showcase, and Supernova, premiering at the festival, was co-produced by Film London alumnus Emily Morgan, who also produced short film Physics through our London Calling programme in 2012.

Still from the film Sweetheart by Marley Morrison

Sweetheart, dir. Marley Morrison

Four of the shorts in the LFF programme have Microwave alumni connections, and there are a whole host of films within the Experimenta strand with connections to FLAMIN, our Artists’ Moving Image Network.

We’re really proud of these connections, in what is a terrific programme of work, and really pleased to continue this partnership even in these strange times.

I’m also recommending four titles: the aforementioned Riz Ahmed-starring Mogul Mowgli; Herself, an Irish film by Phyllida Llloyd; and two Italian films which I selected for the festival: Bad Tales, a gothic fairytale by the D'Innocenzo brothers, and Nottunro, Gianfranco Rosi’s masterpiece of a documentary.

I hope all of this excites you, makes you want to sign up, buy tickets and to enjoy the BFI London Film Festival – it’s a wonderful way to wallow in world cinema.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate the festival's director Tricia Tuttle and her team for the job they're doing. I look forward to seeing you there!

Adrian Wootton OBE

Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission

1. Mogul Mowgli (2020) — dir. Bassam Tariq

Mogul Mowgli is an exciting, dramatic independent British film shot almost exclusively in London, co-written, starring and produced by the brilliantly talented Riz Ahmed. It marks the dramatic feature film debut of Bassam Tariq, making a really accomplished move into feature film from documentaries.

It’s the story of a rising rap musician whose career is put on hold because of illness, something which forces him to try to reconcile the cultural differences of his modern lifestyle with the Pakistani Muslim traditions of his family.

It’s a really insightful, poignant family drama with an urban edge and ethic, which deserves all the acclaim its garnered since it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. It’s great to see it showcase in the festival, and we’re also pleased to be staging a case study with the film’s makers as part of the Film London Production Finance Market.

It’s a film that really deserves your attention, and marks the further rise of Riz Ahmed, who was also an alumni of the Film London Microwave scheme.

Mogul Mowgli will be released in cinemas on Friday 30 October by BFI Distribution.

Screening at selected cinemas and on BFI Player from 10-13 October as part of LFF 2020.

Buy tickets: BFI London Film Festival website

Riz Ahmed in Mogul Mowgli, directed by Bassam Tariq

Riz Ahmed in Mogul Mowgli, directed by Bassam Tariq

2. Herself (2020) — dir. Phyllida Lloyd

Herself is an Irish-set, powerful drama directed by Phyllida Lloyd, an acclaimed theatre director, but who also made the blockbuster Mamma Mia and The Iron Lady. This is a very different kind of film, and is a showcase for the young actress and writer Clare Dunne, who Phyllida met in theatre.

The film is the story of a young mother who is separated from her abusive husband and is, literally and metaphorically, trying to build a new life and a new home for her two children. I don’t want to give the impression it’s all doom and gloom; it’s a serious drama, but it’s warm-hearted and funny, and it’s really about the resilience of the human spirit and the kindness of people.

I was absolutely bowled over by it at Sundance in January, and I’m really glad it’s in the London Film Festival. I know that if you make the effort to seek it out, you’ll find it incredibly rewarding, and incredibly entertaining.

Screening at selected cinemas and on BFI Player from 8-10 October as part of LFF 2020.

Buy tickets: BFI London Film Festival website

Still from Herself, directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Herself, dir. Phyllida Lloyd

3. Bad Tales (2020) — dir. Fabio D'Innocenzo, Damiano D'Innocenzo

Bad Tales, the second feature by twin brothers the D'Innocenzos, is a gothic fairytale set in the suburbs of Rome during one hot summer, about how a bunch of dysfunctional families and their children implode. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s nasty, it’s grotesque, but it’s also a really enchanting film that will really draw you in, featuring an extraordinary performance by the brilliantly versatile Elio Germano.

I hope you seek out Bad Tales - it’s a remarkable movie by two exceptionally talented writer-directors, and, if you see it at the festival, I’ve pre-recorded an introduction and a Q&A with the D'Innocenzos that you'll be able to see on the BFI Player.

Screening on BFI Player on 14 October as part of LFF 2020.

Buy tickets: BFI London Film Festival website

Still from Bad Tales, directed by the D'Innocenzo brothers

Bad Tales, dir. Fabio D'Innocenzo, Damiano D'Innocenzo

4. Notturno (2020) — dir. Ginafranco Rosi

Notturno is the new film from Gianfranco Rosi – in my opinion one of the greatest documentary filmmakers in the world today. His earlier work like Sacro GRA and Fire at Sea has been showcased previously at the festival – and this may be his greatest film.

It’s a film about ordinary people across the borders of the Middle East, in countries like Syria and Lebanon, ranging across all stratum of society, with one thing in common – the shadow of war, of conflict.

It’s hauntingly beautiful film, extraordinarily shot across different landscapes, and is wonderfully evocative. For me, it’s not only a great masterpiece, but my favourite film in this year’s BFI London Film Festival. I can’t encourage you to watch it strongly enough.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Gianfranco for the Toronto International Film Festival, which you can see at the bottom of this page, and I’ve written a piece about Notturno for the BFI, which you can read here.

See it first at the London Film Festival. It really is fabulous.

Screening on BFI Player on 15 October as part of LFF 2020.

Buy tickets: BFI London Film Festival website

Still from Notturno, directed by Gianfranco Rosi

Notturno, dir. Gianfranco Rosi

Ginafranco Rosi interviewed by Adrian Wootton for TIFF 2020