BFI Film Fund slate 2015/2016

Learn about the films awarded production funding by the BFI in the financial year 2015/2016.

Ben Roberts

A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom (2016)

Our mission at the Film Fund is four-fold: supporting distinctive emerging filmmakers; films of cultural significance; projects that takes risks in form and content; and those that recognise the quality of difference.

Details on all our funding decisions can be found on our Lottery awards database but going forward we will list the films we are supporting at the end of each financial year and under one slate, as an example of the breadth of independent filmmaking underway across the UK.

As an industry we must push constantly towards a more inclusive and representative film culture, and diversity is increasingly at the heart of our decisions.

By sharing information on funded productions, you can see where progression is happening, and where more work needs to be done.

As always we count ourselves lucky to work with such an incredible range of talented writers, directors and producers, and their talented casts and crews.

Ben Roberts
Director of the BFI Film Fund

The BFI has awarded production funding to the following films in the financial year 1 April 2015-31 March 2016

The Girl with All the Gifts
Director: Colm McCarthy
Writer: Mike Carey
Producer(s): Camille Gatin, Angus Lamont

Scripted by graphic novelist Mike Carey, The Girl with All The Gifts is a smart and original take on the post-apocalyptic zombie film. Director Colm McCarthy makes the transition from high-end television, having previously been lead director on season two of Peaky Blinders starring Tom Hardy. Produced by Camille Gatin (Shadow Dancer) and Angus Lamont (’71), the high profile cast includes Glenn Close, Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton, plus an extraordinary performance from newcomer Sennia Nanua as the young lead. 

Swallows and Amazons
Director: Philippa Lowthorpe
Writer (screenplay): Andrea Gibb
Producer: Nick Barton, Nick O’Hagan, Joe Oppenheimer

This big screen adaptation of the classic and well-loved work of children’s fiction is the feature debut of BAFTA-winning director Philippa Lowthorpe – whose previous credits include Call the Midwife and Cider with Rosie. Starring Rafe Spall (X+Y), Andrew Scott (Pride, Sherlock Holmes) and Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men, Boardwalk Empire) in the adult roles, Swallows and Amazons promises to be a fun and engaging film, faithful to the original book yet thrilling enough to resonate with contemporary family audiences.

Lean on Pete 
Director: Andrew Haigh
Writer: Andrew Haigh
Producer: Tristan Goligher

Following the critical acclaim and box office success of the Oscar®-nominated 45 Years, Andrew Haigh’s next feature is an intimate and epic personal story based on the acclaimed novel by Willy Vlautin. Lean on Pete follows 15-year-old Charley as he embarks on a perilous journey in search of his long lost aunt and a possible home. Charley’s quest carries him from the horse-racing track at Portland Meadows, through the sagebrush of the Oregon desert, to the city streets of Denver, his sole companion the stolen racehorse Lean on Pete. The story of Charley is never sentimental but always compassionate, a heartbreaking and unadorned portrait of American life. The production company is Haigh’s regular collaborator Tristan Goligher (Weekend, 45 Years) is producing the project for production company The Bureau.

Free Fire 
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump & Ben Wheatley
Producer: Andrew Starke

Ben Wheatley takes on a new genre: the American crime movie, and steps up the action on his most ambitious film to date with an arms deal that goes spectacularly and explosively wrong. Wheatley has teamed once again with High-Rise director of photography Laurie Rose and production designer Paki Smith, who meticulously recreates the late 1970s Boston setting. Andrew Starke (Sightseers) produces with Martin Scorsese joining as executive producer – a sign of this project’s ambition. The cast also includes Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor and Sam Riley plus Wheatley regular Michael Smiley.

Viceroy’s House 
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer(s): Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini, Gurinder Chadha
Producer(s): Gurinder Chadha, Deepak Nayar

Viceroy’s House (2017)

A long term passion project for writer-director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It like Beckham), Viceroy’s House is a moving political drama about the Partition of India set in the upstairs/downstairs world of Viceroy’s House, the Delhi home of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India. Aided by writer Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre, Tamara Drewe), Gurinder’s powerful screenplay has attracted a cast that includes Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson alongside emerging Indian actor Manish Dayal (The Hundred-Foot Journey).

A United Kingdom 
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Producer: Rick McCallum, Peter Heslop

Following the success of Belle, director Amma Asante returns with a powerful romantic drama telling the remarkable true story of the 1948 marriage between the King of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and an office clerk from London. Their relationship was opposed by everyone, from their families to the British and South African governments, but love conquers all. Written by Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky, Five Minutes of Heaven), the film features stand-out performances from two stellar British actors – David Oyelowo (Selma) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl).

Dark River 
Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Producer: Tracy O’Riordan

Casting is currently under way on the new film from award-winning filmmaker Clio Barnard (The Selfish Giant). Clio was awarded the Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Fellowship in 2013 and through that opportunity was able to conduct extensive research on the visual representation of memory and trauma. That experience helped feed into her approach to this compelling contemporary rural tragedy – which we believe will further her reputation as one of the UK’s most distinctive filmmaking voices.

Fanny Lye Deliver’d
Director: Thomas Clay
Writer: Thomas Clay
Producer(s): Zorana Piggott, Robert Cannan, Philippe Bober

Thomas Clay (Soi Cowboy, The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael) returns with a fascinating 17th-century-set English ‘western’ that digs deep into compelling questions around faith and religion of a world turned upside down. Zorana Piggott (Couple in a Hole) produces alongside Robert Cannan (The Lovers and the Despot) and Philippe Bober (Force Majeure). Award-winning cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis (The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, Eternity and a Day) and production designer Nenad Pecur (whose credits as art director include Polanski’s The Pianist) are also on board.

Director: Paddy Considine
Writer: Paddy Considine
Producer: Diarmid Scrimshaw

Journeyman (2016)

The highly anticipated second feature from Paddy Considine whose BAFTA-winning debut feature Tyrannosaur garnered critical acclaim and won awards at festivals worldwide. Journeyman is a powerful and beautiful story about Matty, a world title boxer who suffers a serious injury in the ring and must then piece his life back together. Considine underwent an intense training regime to play the title role of Matty, Jodie Whittaker plays his wife Emma. The film is an Inflammable film produced by triple BAFTA winning Diarmid Scrimshaw (Tyrannosaur) and also reunites other Tyrannosaur collaborators including editor Pia Di Ciaula, designer Simon Rogers and hair and makeup designer Nadia Stacey.

A Storm in the Stars 
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Writer(s): Emma Jensen, Conor McPherson, Haifaa Al-Mansour
Producer(s): Amy Baer, Ruth Coady, Alan Moloney

Haifaa Al Mansour’s extraordinary debut feature Wadjda was the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Her next project, A Storm in the Stars, tells the story of the love affair between 18-year-old Mary Godwin and poet Percy Shelley, which resulted in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. Haifaa’s engagement with the Shelley story provides an exciting opportunity for an international creative collaboration led by producer Alan Moloney, between the UK, Ireland, Luxemburg and the US, with an outstanding crew drawn from across Europe. The strong cast includes Elle Fanning as Mary Shelley, Bel Powley as Mary’s sister Claire Clairmont and Douglas Booth as Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Old Boys
Director: Toby MacDonald
Writer(s): Luke Ponte, Freddy Syborn
Producer: Luke Morris

Old Boys marks the directorial debut of Toby MacDonald, BAFTA-nominated for his short films Heavy Metal Drummer and Je t’aime John Wayne. This idiosyncratic teen comedy inspired by the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story is produced by Luke Morris (Je t’aime John Wayne, All Tomorrow’s Parties) and stars an exciting roster of young actors including Alex Lawther (critically acclaimed as the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game), César and Lumière-nominated French actor Pauline Étienne (The Nun, Eden), rising star Jonah Hauer-King (Ashes in the Snow), Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds, The Program) and Joshua McGuire (Mr. Turner, About Time).

Animal Shadows 
Director: Michael Pearce
Writer: Michael Pearce
Producer(s): Kristian Brodie, Lauren Dark, Ivana MacKinnon

An emotionally isolated woman comes under the spotlight of an island community when she falls in love with a man who is suspected of a series of brutal murders. Animal Shadows is a love story trapped inside a horror film – a dark fairytale about a woman that comes to power by embracing the beast within. Animal Shadows is the feature debut from writer-director Michael Pearce, who was BAFTA-nominated for his BFI-supported short film, Keeping Up with the Joneses. His work to date has marked him out as an exciting emerging filmmaker and Animal Shadows promises to be a complex and compelling drama. Ivana Mackinnon (The Scouting Book for Boys), Lauren Dark (War Book) and Kristian Brodie (Next Goal Wins) are producing the project. Pearce is once again joining forces with director of photography Ben Kracun (Dark Horse) and editor Maya Maffioli, both of whom worked on Keeping Up with the Joneses.

God’s Own Country 
Director: Francis Lee
Writer: Francis Lee
Producer(s): Manon Ardisson, Jack Tarling

This is the debut feature from writer-director Francis Lee who hails from a farming community in West Yorkshire. Set against the cinematic landscape of the Pennines and encompassing a socially isolated world of family, duty and farming, God’s Own Country is an intense and moving love story between farmer’s lad Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu). Emerging producers Manon Ardisson and Jack Tarling are working with a stellar creative crew including director of photography Joshua James Richards (Songs My Brothers Taught Me), editor Chris Wyatt (’71) and designer Stephane Collonge (Exhibition).

I, Daniel Blake 
Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Paul Laverty
Producer: Rebecca O’Brien

I, Daniel Blake (2016)

Almost 50 years after Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home was broadcast by the BBC, the director returns to looking at issues of deprivation in modern Britain in I, Daniel Blake. Loach has worked with regular collaborators including screenwriter Paul Laverty, producer Rebecca O’Brien and director of photography Robbie Ryan. Set and shot in Newcastle, the film features fantastic performances from Dave Johns in the title role and Hayley Squires as the female lead.

Director: Peter Mackie Burns
Writer: Nico Mensinga
Producer(s): Valentina Brazzini, Tristan Goligher

Daphne (2016)

Daphne is the debut feature from Scottish director Peter Mackie Burns whose short Milk won a Golden Bear at Berlin. Evoking the spirit of John Cassavetes among others, Mackie Burns and writer Nico Mensinga have crafted a ruefully observed existential portrait. Rising star Emily Beecham (Hail Caesar!) gives an outstanding performance as the eponymous heroine in a role that was specifically written for her. The heads of department on the project include editor Nick Emerson (Starred Up), production designer Miren Maranon (Lilting, Appropriate Behaviour) and costume designer Nigel Egerton (The Goob, Locke). This is also up and coming director of photography Adam Scarth’s first feature. Valentina Brazzini (Unmade Beds) produces alongside Tristan Goligher (45 Years, Weekend) for production company The Bureau.

Director: Sean Foley
Writer: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
Producer(s): Jack Arbuthnott, Laura Hastings Smith

An original British comedy film written by co-creator of The Mighty Boosh Julian Barratt and Boosh regular Simon Farnaby, the film is the debut feature of award-winning theatre director Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote) and combines a strong, original high-concept with a character driven narrative rooted in the real world.

When MI5 Special Operative Bruce Mindhorn was captured in the late 1980s, his eye was replaced by a super-advanced optical lie detector, which meant he could literally “see the truth”. He escaped and fled to the Isle of Man, to recuperate in the island’s temperate microclimate, and today has become the best plain-clothes detective the island has ever seen.

Lek & the Dogs
Director: Andrew Kötting
Writer: Hattie Naylor
Producer: Nick Taussig

Maverick visionary artist filmmaker Andrew Kötting (Swandown, Gallivant), one of the strongest and most unique voices in British film, takes as a starting point Hattie Naylor’s award-winning play Ivan and the Dogs. Using archive as well footage shot in diverse, wild locations including Chile, Kötting promises a montage essay on the state of the world – drawing inspiration from such films as Derek Jarman’s Blue and Bill Morrison’s Decasia. 


Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami
Director: Sophie Fiennes
Producer: Katie Holly, Sophie Fiennes, Shani Hinton, Beverly Jones

Grace Jones – The Musical of My Life is the culmination of a 10-year collaboration between filmmaker Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow) and celebrated performer Grace Jones. Combining her unique performance with intimate observational documentary, the film peels back the layers of complexity in Jones’ relationship with her own iconic image. In doing so, Fiennes provides a fascinating, funny and moving insight into the interdependence of reality and representation, performer and performance.

Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach
Director: Louise Osmond
Producer: Rebecca O’Brien

Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach

Versus is a funny, provocative and revealing account of the life and career of one of Britain’s foremost filmmakers, Ken Loach, as he turns 80 and looks back at over 50 years of filmmaking. One of Britain’s most celebrated and controversial filmmakers, Versus presents a surprisingly candid behind-the-scenes account of Ken Loach’s career as he prepares to release his final major film I, Daniel Blake later this year.

Director Louise Osmond (Dark Horse) was granted exclusive access on set and uses this as a starting point to look at Loach’s career, from his early work as a theatre director, to his TV dramas and later as an award-winning feature director. As well as interviews with Loach, Osmond talks with a host of his friends, adversaries, colleagues and collaborators. Osmond is supported by Loach’s regular producing partner Rebecca O’Brien.

Notes on Blindness
Director(s): Peter Middleton, James Spinney
Producer(s): Mike Brett, Jo-Jo Ellison, Steve Jamison, Peter Middleton, James Spinney, Alex Usborne

Notes on Blindness (2016)

Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s debut feature is developed out of their critically acclaimed short, which premiered at Sundance 2014 and went on to win an Emmy Award. Like the short, it is based on the extraordinary audio memoirs of theologian John Hull, who chronicled the process of losing his sight in the early 1980s, knowing that if he did not try and understand blindness it would destroy him. Hull’s diaries are embedded within cinematic interpretations in which actors lip-synch to the original recordings, intertwined with a lyrical narration by John and his wife, Marilyn. Crucially it is a piece that works both visually and aurally, to be appreciated by both sighted and non-sighted audiences. With partners ARTE France and Agat Ex Nihilo, they have also built an accompanying virtual reality experience in keeping with the poetic ambitions of the feature film. Notes on Blindness seeks to represent and explore blindness in much the same way that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly represented and explored locked-in syndrome and, more fundamentally, the nature of human existence.

The Confession
Director: Ashish Ghadiali
Producer: James Rogan

From the rise of the Bosnian Mujahideen to the torture-cells of Guantanamo Bay, from the rebel training camps of Syria to the prison-bars of Belmarsh, Moazzam Begg has been a witness to a generation of conflict. This is the story of our age told through the lens of one man’s journey in search of his own identity – a cinematic documentary with the narrative intensity of Touching the Void and the geopolitical significance of Citizenfour. Ashish Ghadiali directs with James Rogan producing.

Irene’s Ghost 
Director: Iain Cunningham
Writer: Iain Cunningham
Producer: Rebecca Mark-Lawson

Irene’s Ghost (2016)

Iain Cunningham’s Irene’s Ghost, produced by Rebecca Mark-Lawson, is a part-animated feature documentary that follows the moving journey of the filmmaker to build a picture of the mother he never knew. Award-winning animator Ellie Land will be basing the film around illustrations from the filmmaker’s original baby book, full of photos and scribbled statements from his mother who died when he was three years old. The project has received support from the Wellcome Trust, and was originally pitched at the BFI Doc/Fest pitch in Sheffield where the panel was visibly moved by the film’s universal themes of memory, family, loss and connection, which will resonate with cinema audiences.

Director: Victor Kossakovsky
Producer: Aimara Reques

Aquarela is a major new feature from documentary visionary Victor Kossakovsky. His previous work has been celebrated internationally: ¡Vivan las Antipodas! opened the Venice Film Festival in 2012 and Belovy was voted by filmmakers as 11th greatest documentary of all time in a Sight & Sound poll. As an observer of the human condition, and as a gifted artist, Kossakovsky takes us on an epic journey, at the heart of which is water. Characters are introduced in stories/locations where water is the key element. This accompanies sequences at Lake Baikal which, this year, melted early due to the warmer climate, causing catastrophe, to a near-dry lake bed in Africa, to water as a form of control. The lead producer, Aimara Reques, has been based in Glasgow for over 20 years. Kossakovsky is in discussions with a number of UK composers to score the film on a symphonic scale.

Fly Away
Director: Lucy Cohen
Producer: Julia Nottingham

Fly Away is the documentary directorial debut from Lucy Cohen, the talent behind Life in Film, a short film supporting the BFI National Film Archive’s Luminous campaign. Originally developed through the BFI NET.WORK programme managed by Creative England, Fly Away will be produced by multi-award-winning production company Pulse Films (20,000 Days on Earth, The Possibilities Are Endless). It charts the emotional journey of a family who lost their father to suicide seven years ago. Five of the seven children are on the autistic spectrum and with the help of their mother they piece together fragments of the past in order to understand their place in the world and embrace the future. Combining family home video and songs with observational footage, captured in the West Midlands over the last three years, Fly Away is a coming-of-age story about how tragedy can be transformed into hope.

Even When I Fall 
Director(s): Kate McLarnon, Sky Neal
Producer: Elhum Shakerifar

Even When I Fall is the debut documentary from directors Sky Neal and Kate McLarnon working with Elhum Shakerifar, who produced Sean McAllister’s highly acclaimed and timely documentary A Syrian Love Story, released last year. Over the past five years the filmmakers have been working with Nepal’s first circus, Circus Kathmandu, set up by survivors of child trafficking, and they tell the story of three remarkable young women who find their voices on the world stage as advocates against modern day slavery.

Untitled project
Director: Tim Travers Hawkins

The Hard Stop
Director: George Amponsah
Producer: Dionne Walker

The Hard Stop (2015)

George Amponsah’s hybrid observational documentary The Hard Stop follows several years in the lives of two of the closest friends of Mark Duggan, whose death while being arrested by armed police in Tottenham, London sparked the UK riots of 2011. The Hard Stop employs the imaginative use of archive and iconic cinematography to tell Marcus and Kurtis’s story growing up with Duggan on the Broadwater Farm housing estate. Amponsah has made the award-winning feature length documentaries The Importance of Being Elegant (co-directed by Cosima Spender and nominated for a Grierson Award) and The Fighting Spirit (Sheffield Doc/Fest) and is working with Dionne Walker, an emerging writer-producer being mentored by editor Joe Bini (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, We Need to Talk about Kevin).  The Hard Stop was successful at the BFI and Sheffield Doc/Fest pitching session in 2014, where the panel thought this compelling and timely project about a pivotal time in recent British history had clear cinematic potential. The filmmakers continued to work with the Sundance Lab and have emerged with a striking and important film that has been invited to screen at TIFF in the City to City programme. The BFI’s funding helped them finish the film to screen at the festival in September 2015.

XY Chelsea
Director: Tim Hawkins      
Producer: Julia Nottingham

XY Chelsea is being made by British writer and director Tim Hawkins and produced by Julia Nottingham from Pulse Films, a UK production company.

Soldier, trans woman and prisoner, Chelsea Manning has launched an appeal against the US Military, challenging a 35-year sentence given after she disclosed almost 700,000 US military and diplomatic documents. Incarcerated in an all-male military prison in Kansas, she is also undergoing hormone replacement therapy to transition to the female gender she has identified with all her life. This is a fight for Chelsea’s identity: her character, her integrity, and her humanity. Told from Chelsea’s perspective, through an intimate prison diary, XY Chelsea will provide an unique view of one of the most important stories of the 21st century and an ongoing legal battle that has implications for us all.


The Man from Mo’Wax
Director: Matthew Jones
Producer: M.J. McMahon, Brian A. Hoffman and Matthew Jones

The Man from Mo’Wax (2016)

A pulsating documentary charting the extraordinary life and career of music industry icon DJ James Lavelle – UK producer and global trip hop mogul – from first-time director Matthew Jones. The film is a British story and has its roots in Bristol, Oxford and London. It’s about how a young Englishman changed music culture internationally from a tiny British office. An incredible, tempestuous and acrimonious life and career will play out before our eyes in this fascinating insight into one of the UK’s leading musicians.

The Greasy Strangler 
Director: Jim Hosking
Writers: Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard
Producer: Andy Starke, Ant Timpson, Daniel Noah, Josh Waller, Elijah Wood

The Greasy Strangler (2016)

The Greasy Strangler is a disturbing and hilarious family drama and the debut feature from writer-director Jim Hosking, effectively setting out his store as one of the most exciting and innovative emerging talents working in the UK. Working from an original script by storyboard artist turned screenwriter Toby Harvard (Privado), Hosking’s hilarious and deranged film received completion funding through the BFI to finish the film to its highest level possible ahead of its premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. 

The Violators 
Director: Helen Walsh
Writer: Helen Walsh
Producer: David Moores, David A. Hughes

The Violators

Helen Walsh is a novelist whose debut Brass led to a cult following and critical acclaim, and she has since written four other novels. The Violators is her first film as a writer-director and shows a raw filmmaking talent, achieving a powerful central performance from newcomer Lauren McQueen.

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