Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A United Kingdom to open London Film Festival

A United Kingdom
Amma Asante’s new movie A United Kingdom will open the 60th BFI London Film Festival (LFF). The film sees David Oyelowo play Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), who married Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1947 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments. Williams is played by Rosamund Pike.

The film will receive its European premiere on Wednesday 5 October at the Odeon Leicester Square, attended by cast and filmmakers with Asante, Oyelowo and Pike expected on the red carpet. There will be a live cinecast from the London event and simultaneous screenings taking place at cinemas across the UK.

Amma Assante becomes the first black director to open or close the London Film Festival and the fifth woman director to open the 60 year-old event. Her previous films are A Way of Life (2004), which won the UK Film Talent Award at the LFF, and Belle (2013).

Assante said: “It's a great privilege that A United Kingdom has been selected as the Opening Night Film of the BFI London Film Festival. The festival means a lot to me personally, having showcased my very first film, A Way of Life, here and been honoured with the UK Film Talent Award. I’m a proud Londoner and in A United Kingdom we've been able to film in some of the most beautiful parts of the city as well as in the wonderful landscapes of Botswana.”

The screenplay for A United Kingdom is screenplay by Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) and is based on the book Colour Bar by Susan Williams.

The film also stars includes Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Terry Pheto (Mandela), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Arnold Oceng (Adulthood), Jack Lowden (’71) and Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey).

Clare Stewart, BFI London Film Festival director, said: “Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom is testament to a defiant and enduring love story that also reveals a complex, painful chapter in British history. We are proud to be opening the 60th BFI London Film Festival with a film of such contemporary relevance, one that celebrates the triumph of love and intelligence over intolerance and oppression, and that confirms Asante as a distinctive and important British filmmaker.”

A United Kingdom is produced by Rick McCallum (Star Wars), David Oyelowo, Justin Moore-Lewy, Brunson Green (The Help) and Charlie Mason. The film is executive produced by Pathé’s Cameron McCracken, BBC Films' Christine Langan, the BFI’s Ben Roberts, Ingenious Media’s Eleanor Clark Windo and Guy Hibbert.

The film is a Pathé, BBC Films, BFI, Ingenious presentation, with the participation of Canal+ and Cine+, of a Yoruba Saxon/Harbinger Pictures/Perfect Weekend/ Film United Production. Pathé will distribute the film in the UK and France, and also handle sales throughout the rest of the world.

The 60th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express takes place from Wednesday 5 October to Sunday 16 October 2016. The full LFF programme will be announced on Thursday 1 September 2016.

The film’s European premiere in London makes a Toronto, Telluride or New York world premiere likely.

The full LFF programme will be announced on 1 September.

Feature Expanded nurtures European film artists

No Man is an Island, Gabrielle Brody
A dozen artists from UK, Italy, Netherlands, Israel, Canada, Germany, Greece, USA, Sweden and Poland have been selected to participate in the second edition of Feature Expanded, a training programme aimed at supporting visual artists who want to make a full-length film

Feature Expanded will take place at HOME, Manchester, from 22-27 June, and also at the Lo Schermo dell’Arte Film Festival in Florence, Italy, between 16-20 November.

Participants will take part in an intensive programme spanning six months in Manchester and Florence. The course combines masterclasses, case studies, workshops, screenings, one-to-one meetings and pitching sessions for visual artists who are developing their first feature film.

The first iteration of Feature Expanded in 2015, which saw the Expanded Feature Distribution Award presented to No Man is an Island by Gabrielle Brady.

The success of the 2015 programme saw applications for the second edition were double those for last year’s course.

The 2016 participants are:
  • Fabian Altenried (Germany)

  • Kasia Fudakowski (UK/Poland)

  • Chaja Hertog and Nir Nadler (Netherlands/Israel)
  • Marine Hugonnier (UK/France)

  • Cristina Picchi (UK/Italy)

  • Wojciech Puś (Poland)
  • Jennifer Rainsford (Sweden)
  • Margarida Rego (Portugal)

  • Simone Rowat (Canada/Germany)
  • Alexandre Singh (USA/UK/France)
  • Rosie Toner (UK)
  • Stefanos Tsivopoulos (Greece)

Sarah Perks, Feature Expanded programme co-director, commented: “I'm thrilled we have another amazing group of respected artists for Year 2 of Feature Expanded and have further expanded our partners to include Creative Scotland. We also have a stellar line up of experts from the film industry and we're excited to get working on developing another 12 exciting artist film projects for the cinema.”

The 2016 edition will include peer-led training from industry experts including: pitching expert Sibylle Kurz; screenwriter and script consultant Marietta von Hausswolf von Baumgarten; and producers Samm Haillay and Jacqui Davies.

These experts will help participants develop the skills and the expertise needed to advance their early stage feature film projects for theatrical distribution and exhibition, before being introduced to potential collaborations with relevant festivals, markets and other partners.

Festival directors and curators from all over Europe will attend the final pitching session, which will be organized during the 10th edition of Lo schermo dell’arte Film Festival in November 2017.

The course culminates with the presentation of the Feature Expanded Distribution Award, selected by a panel of industry experts, which includes an extended mentoring and distribution deal from HOME Artist Film and Lo Schermo Dell’Arte.

This year also sees the launch of the Feature Expanded Development Award. This is apartnership with ALO-OHA, a new structure for artist and avant-garde cinema created by renowned film professionals Helle Ulsteen and Marietta von Hausswolff von Baumgarten. The award provides one participant and their film project with an intensive residency in Stockholm to work with Marietta & Helle on script development.

Representatives of the FIDLab, the international co-production platform of the FIDMarseille Film Festival, will also participating in the scheme with the aim of selecting one or more projects for their next edition. In addition, the UK National Lottery through Creative Scotland Targeted Screen Funding, have provided a Feature Expanded bursary. Glasgow-based artist filmmaker Rosie Toner has been selected as the first recipient.

Manchester's HOME celebrates Jazz on film

Jazz on Film will be a key part of this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival, which runs in the city between 22 and 31 July. Eight films will be screened at HOME to illustrate some of the defining moments in the history of jazz and cinema.

The Manchster Jazz Festival presents live music by over 500 musicians at 80 events in venues across the city. The festival champions regional jazz artists and brings the best contemporary jazz to Manchester from the region, the UK and abroad, presenting mostly new and original material, with premières and international debuts focusing on musical innovation.

“Manchester Jazz Festival is delighted to be working in partnership with our friends at HOME to present a series of the very best jazz-related movies from the last 50 years, from cherished classics to more recent gems,” says Steve Mead, artistic director of Manchester Jazz Festival. “With introductions from key jazz artists and experts, the Jazz on Film season is a rare opportunity for audiences to enjoy these in one setting and adds an exciting dimension to this year’s festival.”

The season kicks off with Lift to the Scaffold, French auteur Louise Malle’s debut feature from 1958, with a score by Miles Davis. That is followed by a special 35mm print of Spike Lee’s 1990 film Mo’ Better Blues, featuring Lee himself, Denzel Washington, and Wesley Snipes.

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser, a portrait of the master pianist-composer, will be followed by Tubby Hayes - A Man In A Hurry, director Lee Cogswell’s account of the British saxophonist. Writer and producer Mark Baxter will introduce the film.

Bird, Clint Eastwood’s study of Charlie Parker, featuring Forest Whitaker as the troubled saxophonist, will be followed by a rare screening of The Connection, from American director Shirley Clarke. The Connection was swiftly withdrawn from circulation owing to its frank depiction of drug taking after its heralded debut at Cannes in 1961.

Bertrand Tavernier’s ’Round Midnight, from 1986, featuring Oscar-nominated Dexter Gordon as fictional saxophonist Dale Turner is next. HOME hopes it will be introduced by Matthew Halsall.

Basil Dearden’s All Night Long, from 1961, closes the season. Featuring Patrick McGoohan, Keith Michell and Richard Attenborough, the film is shot almost entirely inside a jazz club and features icons of jazz including Dave Brubeck, John Dankworth, Charles Mingus and Tubby Hayes.

Jason Wood, artistic director of Film at HOME, says: “Jazz and Manchester go together like hand and glove, with numerous key figures in jazz emerging from the city in recent years,” says. “In my first year in Manchester I noticed the buzz the Manchester Jazz Festival brought to the city, and I really want to harness that at HOME during the festival this year. The selection of films is quite diverse, as is jazz itself – for some these titles will be a new discovery, for others it will be like slipping on a favourite old album.”

The season is based on a concept by Ehsan Khoshbakht.