The BFI London Film Festival is back with another bumper programme of films from around the world – and this year’s line-up has no shortage of exceptional female-driven stories.
Let’s face it: the London Film Festival is popular. Each year, the booking site can be relied upon to crash instantly at the time of opening, with cinephiles desperately trying to get their hands on hotly anticipated tickets to upcoming releases and special presentations.
This year will be the 66th iteration of the festival, running from 5-16 October, and it includes an enticing mix of world film premieres, TV showcases and galas that are sure to be worth the hype.
Of course, there’s a lot to choose from. But 2022’s line-up is more notable than ever before for its brilliant female-driven stories. This year will see the international premiere of She Said starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, the world premiere of Emily Blunt’s new Western drama The English and the European premiere of Empire Of Light starring Olivia Colman, plus many more compelling releases that will be shown publicly for the first time anywhere in the world.
With that in mind, here are the standout releases to keep an eye on at this year’s festival, whether you manage to bag a ticket or not.
Hollywood veterans Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver tackle the right to abortion in 1968 America in Call Jane.
Aptly timed following the recent overturning of Roe v Wade, Call Jane follows the story of housewife Joy (Banks) who seeks help when she is denied an abortion, despite the fact that her pregnancy would be life-threatening. In doing so, she comes across a collective known as The Janes, a secretive network run by Virginia (Sigourney Weaver) –a group of women who strive to provide access to safe abortions for women.
Directed by Phyllis Nagy, this film harks back to a time when women did not always have the right to choose, a time that appears frighteningly back on the brink. Call Jane is likely to light the fire under the already burning discussion of female reproductive rights.
Call Jane is showing at LFF on the 14 and 16 October 2022.
One of the LFF’s top television picks is The English, which stars Emily Blunt, Chaske Spencer and Rafe Spall. Series creator Hugo Blick focuses through a Western lens, following the story of Cornelia Locke (Blunt), an English woman, as she arrives in the USA with two things: a bag of money and a want for revenge.
As she is thrown in with a Pawnee scout Eli Whipp (Spencer), the unlikely pair have to band together to make their way through the unforgiving landscape in order to hunt down the man responsible for the death of Locke’s son.
If gritty tales of determination and sweeping epic Westerns sound like your thing, be sure to check this one out.
The English is showing at LFF on Saturday 15 October 2022.
Empire Of Light
Sam Mendes, Olivia Colman and Colin Firth… need we say more?
Empire Of Light is Sam Mendes’ love letter to cinema, taking place on the English coast in the 1980s. The film follows the story of Hilary (Colman) and her colleagues as they prepare for the regional premiere of Chariots Of Fire.
Set against the backdrop of a coastal town in disarray alongside a rising far-right community, this film is sure to stir up heavy questions and thought-provoking characters, all the while taking a moment to explore a deep-rooted appreciation for cinema.
Empire Of Light is showing across the LFF schedule from 12-13 October
When Chinonye Chukwu showed her debut feature Clemency at LFF in 2019, she left audiences wanting more.
This period drama explores racial themes and injustice, following the story of Mamie Till, who fought for justice after her son Emmett was brutally lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being wrongly accused of harassing a white woman.
Till is the story of a mother-turned-activist who became a prominent figure in the civil rights movement in the US as a result of her fight for what is right. With praise already coming in for Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Mamie Till-Mobley, this film promises a truthful and gut-wrenching portrayal of the fight for justice.
Till is showing at LFF on 15-16th October 2022.
It seems apt that a season that is so heavily led by female-driven projects would include a film that covers one of the biggest exposes on sexism in the industry. She Said, starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, follows the story of two New York Times journalists who were at the forefront of exposing the horrific crimes of Harvey Weinstein.
Directed by Maria Schrader, She Said promises a heavy and sincere exploration of not only two powerful figures that helped take down Weinstein and blow the lid off some of the terrible abuse that took place at his hands, but also one that ponders the difficult questions and the importance of female solidarity.
She Said is showing at LFF from the 14-16 October 2022.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Another breakout star of The Crown appearing at LFF this year is Emma Corrin, who stars in Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s adaptation of DH Lawrence’s 1928 novel alongside Jack O’Connell.
In a time when adaptations of classic stories in the same vein of Little Women and Emma are being turned out fast and furiously, Lady Chatterley’s Lover stands to be a memorable addition.
Following the story of Constance ‘Connie’ Reid, who engages in an affair with a gamekeeper Oliver, her tale is one of promiscuity and the reduction of women to their sexual desires. A character that is the subject of much misogyny and pressure as a result of her sexual encounters.
If you like period dramas and misunderstood female characters, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is set to satisfy your adaptation needs through an explorative feminist lens.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover is showing at LFF on 14 and 16 October 2022.
A sweeping and emotional true tale of human resilience, The Swimmers follows Yusra and Sarah Mardini (played by Manal and Nathalie Issa) who are forced to leave their homeland for Europe after civil war breaks out in Syria.
You might recall from newspaper headlines chronicling the Mardini’s story that on the treacherous journey to the Greek island of Lesbos, the pair helped save the lives of passengers in their overcrowded dingy after it suffered an engine failure in the Aegean Sea. In a miraculous feat of endurance, they swam for three and half hours alongside the boat to stop it from capsizing.
From heart-stopping moments of peril to ones of joyous triumph, the film follows the girls on their route to the Olympic debut – and if the trailer is anything to go by, there won’t be a dry eye in sight when the credits start to roll.
The Swimmers is showing at LFF on 9 October 2022.
No longer considered ‘rising’ stars, Letitia Wright and Josh O’Connor join together for Frank Berry’s film Aisha.
Aisha follows a young Nigerian woman (Wright) who finds herself in Ireland to seek asylum after the murders of her brother and father. Lonely and stumped by the overwhelming process that comes with the transition, she finds herself seeking comfort in the company of Conor (O’Connor), who also struggles with a traumatic past.
Exploring the difficulties of seeking refuge and the struggle of adjustment in a poignant character drama, Aisha is not one to miss.
Aisha is showing at LFF on 6 and 8 October 2022.
Images: Getty; Universal Pictures
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