Features / Film

64th BFI London Film Festival 7th – 18th October: Steve McQueen’s Mangrove to open festival, and Francis Lee’s Ammonite to close – Find out more!

We’re already excited for the BFI London Film Festival 2020 and not only will we be covering everything we can, it’s also the perfect time to share the news of their opening and closing films for the festival!

While you might have seen that Mangrove, directed by the multi-award-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, and stars Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby, will received its European premiere on Wednesday 7th October, it’s now also been confirmed that Francis Lee’s biopic Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, will get its UK Premiere on Saturday 17th October!

Both festival films will also be available to UK audiences at cinemas across UK, as #LFF2020 look set to reinvent their system, and give more access than ever to film-lovers across the country. The 64th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, takes place from Wednesday 7th October – Sunday 18th October 2020. The full Festival programme will be announced at an online launch on Tuesday 8th September 2020 and all tickets will be bookable via venue partners.


Photo courtesy of the BBC

Marking 50 years since the events depicted in the film, Mangrove tells the true story of the Mangrove 9, the group of Black activists who clashed with London police during a protest march in 1970 and their highly publicised trial that followed. The trial was the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police. Mangrove is co-written by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons.

The is one of five films from Small Axe, a drama anthology which comprises original films created by McQueen for BBC One, he had this to say:

“I couldn’t be happier that Mangrove will open this year’s BFI London Film Festival. Although the themes are universal, Mangrove is a London story. It may have happened fifty years ago, but it’s as relevant today as it was then.”

BFI London Film Festival Director, Tricia Tuttle said:

“This new series from Oscar-winning director and BFI Fellow Steve McQueen could not be more timely in the context of recent global protests around anti-Black racism and inequality, and McQueen has been a powerful voice in challenging the status quo and demanding inclusion within the British film industry. His Widows also opened the 62nd BFI London Film Festival in 2018 and we have never had the same filmmaker open the LFF twice in such a close time frame; that’s both a testament to the urgency of the film and potency of his filmmaking.”

This year, Festival audiences will be invited to book tickets to preview the film for free at venues across the UK on Wednesday 7th October ahead of its broadcast on BBC One this autumn.


Courtesy of Lionsgate

In the 1840s, acclaimed self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning (Winslet) works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis. The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother. When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison, arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte (Ronan), who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realisation that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably. 

Both a heartfelt love-story and an examination of gender, class and society, Ammonite brings to life in vivid detail the life of a woman unappreciated in her own time.  A pioneering paleontologist and passionate fossil collector, Anning’s findings contributed to changes in scientific thinking around the prehistory of the Earth and saw her named as one of the most influential women in British scientific history by the Royal Society after her death. Director Lee had this to say:

“I’m thrilled Ammonite has been chosen to close the BFI London Film Festival. In these incredibly difficult times, it’s wonderful to see this film about intimacy, love and hope getting its U.K. premiere at LFF”

Tricia Tuttle added:

“We were huge admirers of Francis Lee’s debut and it’s a pleasure to have him close the 2020 BFI London Film Festival with his sublime second feature, Ammonite. Francis has the ability to place love stories of breath-taking intimacy within a rich socio-political context, always with a delicate touch, and here offers reflections on class difference and the erasure of women from scientific history. In Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet, Ammonite features two enthralling and gifted leads; Kate in particular, who appears in almost every scene, gives a fearless and complex performance as the brilliant, proud Mary Anning”.

These highly-anticipated new films from the programme will screen in previews across the UK, in partnership with a UK-wide cinemas network, marking the most audience-accessible version of the Festival to date.

As we previously announced, the majority of this year’s LFF will be delivered as virtual premieres in a programme of over 55 films that offer audiences the opportunity to see the excellent new cinema from around the world from the comfort of their own homes, as well as Screen Talks with major filmmakers and actors and a brand new Virtual Exhibition of XR and Immersive Art.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express takes place from Wednesday 7th October – Sunday 18th October 2020: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff

One thought on “64th BFI London Film Festival 7th – 18th October: Steve McQueen’s Mangrove to open festival, and Francis Lee’s Ammonite to close – Find out more!

  1. Pingback: 64th BFI London Film Festival: Full Programme Announced! | critical popcorn

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