The BFI London Film Festival kicks off this evening (5 October) with Amma Asante's romantic drama A United Kingdom opening the event. Starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, it tells the true story of Seretse Khama, Prince of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) who falls in love with an English woman named Ruth Williams in the late 1940s.
J.A Bayona's A Monster Calls is also a title cinema-lovers should be looking out for. Boasting a stellar cast – Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver – the tale centres around Conor (Lewis MacDougall), a young boy who turns to a mysterious tree monster in order to cope with his single mom's terminal illness. Receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews since its debut at Toronto Film back in early September, Neeson and Weaver are expected to make an appearance at the event.
La La Land is arguably the film with the most hype around it during the festival. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the musical follows aspiring actress Mia as a waitress who also assists major movie stars, and jazz musician Sebastian who plays in rundown bars to make a living. Before long the pair meet and fall in love but as they become more successful, certain opportunities they've worked so hard for rear their heads and challenge their relationship. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) will be around during the festival to promote the film.
Sci-fi mystery Arrival, directed by Sicario's Denis Villeneuve and starring Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Amy Adams is also one to look out for as is DreamWorks' animation Trolls featuring the voice-over talents of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.
Tom Ford's slick-looking thriller drama Nocturnal Animals is yet another title that movie fans should be keeping their eye out for while Nate Parker's biographical drama The Birth Of A Nation should also receive the same treatment. Disney's Queen Of Katwe starring Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o has also been receiving a lot of buzz around the festival and will likely go down well with critics.
Closing the LFF 2016 is Ben Wheatley's eagerly-anticipated Free Fire boasts a coterie of new and established talent with Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley and Brie Larson. The film takes place in Boston, Massachusetts in the late 1970s where a woman named Justine (Larson) brokers a meeting between two Irishmen and a gang led by Copley's Vernon in order for the duo to buy a stash of guns he's looking to shift. However, it doesn't take long for the rendezvous in a deserted warehouse to go south and soon everybody finds themselves in one hell of a shoot-out, fighting for their lives.
Festival director Clare Stewart told the BBC, that her aim when choosing films was to reflect society more accurately than the industry's 'too white and male' reputation. The industry needs to be "mindful of audiences", she stated to the publication. "We have a very diverse audience and the stories we bring to the screen should be reflecting that audience."
Most of the event's main screenings are set to take place in in Odeon Leicester Square, Vue West End, BFI Southbank, Haymarket Cinema and Picturehouse Central, however, in celebration of the festival's 60th anniversary, BFI have created a fully-enclosed temporary cinema within the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Films such as Certain Women, starring Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart and Una, starring Ben Mendelsohn and Rooney Mara are set to be shown there.
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