BFI London Film Festival: What to watch

Overwhelmed by the extensive programme that this year's festival has to offer? Fear not! Our trusty Film Fund are here with their highlights

24 September 2019

Phoebe Sutherland (Film Fund Development Coordinator) recommends Lucky Grandma

Who doesn't want to see a dark comedy about a widowed Chinese grandmother who accidentally steals a bag of cash from New York's Chinese Mob and finds herself at the centre of a gang war?

Lucky Grandma is the debut feature from writer-director Sasie Sealy - a self-proclaimed lover of striking visuals and cheeky scripts - and after Lucky Grandma premiered at Tribeca 2019, one of the New York Times' list of nine filmmakers who should be on your radar!

Camilla Wren (Development & Production Executive) recommends Jallikattu

The seventh film by Indian filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery is billed as a stunning spectacle in its exploration of the nature of savagery. When a buffalo rampages on the loose in a rural village, the residents descend into orgiastic mob madness in their attempts to recapture the beast. In a cinematic experience that has been described as exhilarating, disorienting and visceral it promises to be an intense, atmospheric watch.

James Weddup (Project Partnerships Manager) recommends Don't Look Down (Haut Perchés)

Veteran French directing duo Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau are masters of the intimate drama. Their 2016 film Theo and Hugo took place in real time, from 4:27 am to 5:59 am, in a small patch of Paris. Don't Look Down zooms in even further, to a single apartment where ‘one woman and five men gather to share their experiences of a man they have been involved with, to their cost’. Ducastel describes it as ‘the story of someone who, as soon as he could escape from one pervert, met another one’. It looks like a dinner party film crossed with a revenge thriller, with a heady dose of S&M thrown in. I can't wait!

Lizzie Francke (Senior Development & Production Executive) recommends The Sharks

The directorial debut of Uruguayan filmmaker Lucía Garibaldi hooked me at the title. Critically acclaimed at Sundance, where there were comparisons to Lucrecia Martel and Michel Franco, stripped back aesthetics upped the intrigue. The treacherous waters of adolescent sexuality are here explored through the eyes of 15-year-old Rosina living in a small seaside town where the titular fish may or may have recently berthed. I for one can’t wait - everything I read about this film is pure bait!

Ben Luxford (Head of UK Wide Audiences) recommends Monos

This film has done a proper job on me of presenting itself as pure hype, and i need in on that hype. Benji B has been playing Mica Levi's score on his radio show for a few weeks now, so it's seeped into my consciousness. I guess that's inception? I got nowhere getting tickets for the festival, but mercilessly it's released on 25 October and there's previews on 9 October.

…and Real

Aki Omoshaybi's directorial debut (which he also wrote, produced and stars in), is a unique and delicate British film about a young black couple trying to hide the true struggles they face from one another at the start of a relationship. It's social realism with a slight dreamlike quality, in Southampton. Omoshaybi has clearly been watching and taking notes from the films of Sean Baker, Barry Jenkins and Andrea Arnold. We're supporting the film's release as part of Verve Picture's first feature scheme.

Nilan Dharmadasa (Executive Assistant to Deputy CEO) recommends Honey Boy

In Hollywood, child actors always seem to get a bad rep. I'm looking forward to watching a first-hand account, explaining why that might be the perception. I think Shia LaBeouf is a very talented but misunderstood guy, and for him to put his personal story on the screen it definitely feels like something that I haven't seen before and hopefully one I won't forget. I think this will be visceral, emotional and poignant. If you are not sure whether you should watch this film, I say JUST DO IT!

Jess Loveland (Head of BFI NETWORK) recommends Koko-Di Koko-Da

Johannes Nyholm's 2011 short film, Las Palmas, remains one of my all-time favourites, so I'm keen to catch this his second feature at the festival. It premiered earlier this year at Sundance, and I'm intrigued by the promise of its blend of horror, pitch black comedy, puppetry and animation. Nyholm's hilarious and frenzied crowdfunding video for the Koko-Di Koko-Da mobile cinema tour around Sweden is also worth a watch. Sadly it was unsuccessful!

Caragh Davison (BFI NETWORK Co-ordinator) recommends Pompeii

Obviously I'm jumping in here with a short film! Pompeii brings together directing dream-team trio Harry Lighton, Marco Alessi and Matthew Jacobs Morgan, and superstar producer Sorcha Bacon and honestly, need I go on? Cutting between social media and deliciously grainy film, we see the sometimes hilarious, sometimes messy retelling of a night out whilst exploring femmephobia in hypermasculine queer spaces. Catch it in The Culture strand of shorts.

Ben Roberts (Deputy CEO) recommends I Lost My Body

A dismembered-hand-cum-private-dick scrambles through Paris to return to its body.
Say whaaat?
Away from the headliners this French animation was the talk of Cannes - among my friends at least - and it sounds so poetic, cinematic, unique and beguiling that it is absolutely one of my highlights of LFF.

Melanie Hoyes (Industry Inclusion Executive) recommends Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Never work with children or animals? I beg to differ if it promises to deliver a film as charming as this looks. Shot entirely on solar-powered cameras this film showcases stunning Bhutanese scenery, rarely seen on screen. Expect enough heartrending cuteness to have you in tears of joy and sadness - count me in.

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival runs from 2-13 October. Book your tickets here.