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BFI 63rd London Film Festival 2019 “Rocks”: 40% of Films directed or co-directed by Women

BFI 63rd London Film Festival 2019 “Rocks”: 40% of Films directed or co-directed by Women

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival (LFF) in partnership with American Express announced its full programme today, presenting 229 feature films from some of the world’s greatest filmmakers and emerging talent.   For 12 days from 2-13 October 2019 the #LFF  will celebrate the diverse landscape of international cinema, showcasing films set to entertain and inspire, provoke debate and tackle the urgent issues of our time. Here is ALT’s round up of what to catch.

The festival opens with THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD starring Dev Patel with Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton. The Closing Night film Martin Scorseses,s ninth collaboration with Robert De Niro THE IRISHMAN features big names like Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel  and De Niro stars. The film is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses.

With a strong female focus – In Special Presentation is British film ROCKS a vibrant and hugely engaging portrait of female friendship and growing up in London, from director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane, Suffragette). Based on a script from award-winning playwright Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, the drama was developed through extensive workshops with the female cast, all of whom were discovered through casting sessions at schools. With magnetic performances across the board – particularly from Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali and Shaneigha-Monik Greyson – ROCKS gives voice to London girls who have something to say. ROCKS stars Olushola Joy Omotoso, as ‘Rocks’.

Director Sarah Gavron said:  “It’s really exciting that this film is shown in London, it is about London, we shot it here. It is written by Theresa Ikoko and Clare Wilson, it is a first for a lot of the team, so showing the film in their home town where their friends and family can see it and a wider audience is just a fantastic experience”. She continued. “The LLF is certainly leading the way with 40% females directors.  Producer Ameenah Ayub Allen added.  “…….in Rocks we have about 75% female crew, the creatives, the writers, the authenticity is truly there and this festival is truly inspiring as it is looking into the future”.

Amanda Nevill, CEO, BFI said “At this moment when the UK is adapting and reshaping our place in the world, the BFI London Film Festival really underlines the soft power of the art of film and showcases the dynamism of global exchange and partnership. All the BFI’s cultural programmes, from BFI Southbank to BFI Player, have sought to be an active champion at the heart of the global cinema story and this year’s LFF does this so powerfully with its incredibly rich and diverse programme and the international filmmaking community who love being here.’ 

As Britain’s leading cinema event and one of the world’s most important film festivals, the programme offers UK audiences the chance to see some of the most anticipated new films from around the globe, including a host of new works destined to be major awards contenders.

The Competitive sections serve to recognise remarkable creative achievements from British and international filmmakers. Winners are selected by hand-picked juries across four categories: Official Competition, First Feature, Documentary and Short Film.

In the short film category is first time Director Nadia Latif with her film White Girl .

Still “White Girl”

Latif told Alt Africa “we wanted to make a film about London as we knew it,  as black people, as people of color, as Muslim people as queer people as we knew it,  we wanted to make a film that looked at white women, how we cherish white women and what would happen if the table was reversed”. 

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut include:

ATLANTICS (Dir. Mati Diop). A hypnotic, genre-shifting portrait of a girl’s awakening. When Souleiman grows tired of labouring without pay on the gleaming towers of Dakar, he sets out across the sea with friends, leaving Ada to face impending marriage to another man. But as the women gather in the bar where the men used to drink, it seems that something has returned to them.

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (Dir. Joe Talbot). Jimmie dreams of reclaiming the beautiful late 19th-century home his grandfather built, before hard times and changing demographics forced his family out. He and best friend Mont scheme to make the dream a reality, in Talbot and writer-performer Jimmie Fails’s gorgeous, inventive meditation on art, architecture, black culture and gentrification in California’s Bay Area.


The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year it includes:

MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE (Dir. Richard Lowenstein). Capturing INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence’s rise to super-stardom and subsequent tragic fall, MYSTIFY gives remarkable insight into his life and a truth he took to the grave. A tapestry of voices and home movies animate Hutchence’s personality, kicking tabloid speculation into oblivion and letting his story emerge with emotional and revelatory depth.

OVERSEAS (Dir. Sung-A Yoon). Each year, hundreds of thousands of Filipino women train to become domestic workers abroad. Yoon reveals the personal stories, dreams and heartaches of these trainees, exposing at the same time the economic and familial pressures pushing Filipino women to accept jobs abroad, which can sometimes resemble modern-day slavery.

WHITE RIOT (Dir. Rubika Shah.) This vital documentary blends fresh interviews with archive footage to profile punky reggae protest movement Rock Against Racism, from the movement’s grassroots beginnings in 1976 through to 1978’s huge antifascist carnival in Victoria Park featuring X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse and The Clash, whose rockstar charisma and gale-force conviction took RAR’s message to the masses.


The Festival programme is organised in sections to encourage discovery and to open up the Festival to new audiences. The strands are: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, CultJourneyCreate, ExperimentaFamily and Treasures.


real-bike- still
Still “Real” actor Aki Omoshaybi

A first time director sees actor turned director Aki Omoshaybi’s earnest debut REAL explores the love between two people who work hard to keep their romance on track while struggling to manage personal hardship. Set in London the film stars Pippa Bennett-Warner and Omoshaybi.   Alt spoke to Omoshaybi.

He said. “The premise of REAL is about a blossoming relationship. I suppose when you first start dating, a naturalistic authentic touching story about two people trying to navigate their way  through a relationship from a working class background as well. I wanted to tell a love story from you know, you see films., love stories,  upper class protagonists. I wanted it to be a working class love story with the lead protagonist both being black race is not even an issue, just two people trying to forge their way forward in a relationship”. Watch the full interview with Aki Omoshaybi here.


A HIDDEN LIFE, a Second World War-set true story that calls for grace as it explores the importance of unsung resistance. Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Kevin Harrison Jr. lead the cast in Julius Onah’s LUCE, a gripping psychological thriller about subjectivity and code-switching in modern America. THE REPORT by Scott Z Burns, starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm, is a politically urgent drama in which the American government take a hard look at itself.

See Also

Stanley Nelson’s MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL sees 20th century music’s trumpet-playing prince of darkness receive the candid documentary his controversial genius deserves.


Burning Cane is the winner of the top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival, heralds 19-year-old director Phillip Youmans as a serious new talent. Helen stalks through her farm with a cleaver in one hand, cigarette in the other, running through the various treatments she’s tried for her dog’s mange. Her recently unemployed son Daniel pushes beer and whiskey on his own child. And the local preacher (Wendell Pierce) remains in denial about the malice forming an increasingly powerful undertow to his sermons. As alcohol and melancholy suffuse this Louisiana family and their pastor, a woozy portrait emerges – one of characters living in lows they cannot transcend.



The American Express Gala is the European Premiere of KNIVES OUT, a fresh take on a classic ‘whodunit’ written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper). A stylish tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie, KNIVES OUT is a fun, modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. A witty delight for film fans, the film features a star-studded cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, Katherine Langford and Christopher Plummer. The film will premiere on Tuesday, 8th October at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square.

Starring Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks as beloved television entertainer Fred Rogers, the BFI Patrons’ Gala, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, sees director Marielle Heller return to the festival after premiering her second feature Can You Ever Forgive Me? last year. The film is the perfect antidote for uneasy times and will melt the coldest of hearts. Matthew Rhys is excellent as magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (based on journalist Tom Junod) who is commissioned to write an article on the presenter. Regarding Rogers as a monolith of an unfashionable past, he asks: ‘Could anyone really be so good, so kind?’ But on spending more time with Rogers, Vogel begins to question his own misanthropic outlook.

Check back here for more interviews and LFF festival news.

Festival Information & Ticket Booking

BFI Members’ priority booking opens 10:00am, 5th September – join at  Public booking opens 10:00am, 12th September

Telephone Bookings: +44 (0)20 7928 3232 between 10:00 – 20:30 (from Tuesday 3rd September – Sunday 13th October)