London Film Festival 2019 Preview

Mati Diop and her cast at Cannes (from

It’s LFF time again but this time I’m only going to manage seven screenings. The two highest profile titles I’ve booked for are Atlantique (France-Senegal-Belgium) by Mati Diop and The Perfect Candidate (Saudi Arabia) by Haifaa Ali Mansoor. Atlantique appears in the ‘First Feature’ section which makes it eligible for the Sutherland Award. Mati Diop is the niece of the Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty and featured as an actor in 35 rhums by Claire Denis. I’ve seen a couple of the short films that Mati Diop has made and I’m looking forward to her first feature very much. It’s also the Senegalese nomination for the next Foreign Language Oscar award, having already won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The Perfect Candidate is Haifaa Ali Mansoor’s third film following Wadjda (2012)and Mary Shelley (2018) and this appears in the ‘Official Competition’.

Selecting screenings at London is a complex exercise involving mapping routes between cinemas and trying to remember that many films will be introduced and may include a Q&A. I always try to catch both but sometimes I just have to leave to catch my next screening. London screens films at the BFI South Bank and in the West End, but some screenings are further out and as much as a 30 minute or more journey away by public transport. I try to avoid films which may get a UK release in future unless they just happen to be on at the right time and in the right cinema. Atlantique is a Netflix title so that might be difficult to see in a UK cinema. The Perfect Candidate is listed in the festival catalogue as still with a sales agent, so a UK release isn’t yet guaranteed.

The other five films I’ve booked for are French, Bangladeshi, South Korean, Singaporean and Sudanese so they fit my strategy. As a BFI member I can usually book the seats I want but this year a Polish film I particularly wanted to see was sold out just a couple of hours after booking for members opened. I’m surprised the LFF put the film in a small auditorium. There are quite a few Polish film fans in London, I think. Reports will be available from next weekend.

One comment

  1. john David hall

    For we non-BFI members booking is even more precarious and many of the juicier and even some less juicy screenings are sold out before we get an opportunity for a look-in. I got two of the last four seats for a film called ‘Lucky Grandma’ which was a great disappointment despite selling out very quickly. It did feature Tsai Chin, perhaps better known as the daughter of Fu Manchu on Talking Pictures.
    I was fortunate enough to get seats in NFT1 for a screening of ‘Seberg’ with Kristin Stewart and the ever-rising Jack O’Connell. This was more efficient than essential but at least we got to find out why Jean Seberg’s career was cut short. Rather too much speculation with the composite FBI characters here.
    It is always worth going to the giant screen at the Embankment Gardens for the experience if not the film, and here I got to see recently-completed ‘Our Ladies’ from the Alan Warner book and popular stage adaptation. Some of those sixteen-year old girls must have been in their thirties. Nice, but more for the screening and the Q&A with Michael Caton-Jones than the content.


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