The BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express is thrilled to announce that this year’s opening film will be Mangrove, directed by the multi-award-winning visual artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen, starring Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby. The film will receive its European premiere on Wednesday 7 October as part of the Festival’s innovative 12-day offering, which takes the entire Festival out to cities around the UK, with many films across the programme also available for virtual premieres at home.
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 acknowledgment of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police. Mangrove is co-written by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons.
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The film is one of five films from Small Axe, a drama anthology that comprises five original films created by Steve McQueen for BBC One.
Mangrove director Steve McQueen said: “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 50 years ago, but it’s as relevant today as it was then.”
This year, Festival audiences will be invited to book tickets to preview the film for free at venues across the UK on Wednesday 7 October ahead of its broadcast on BBC One this autumn.
Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director, 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.”
Mangrove and 11 other 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 previously announced, the majority of this year’s LFF will be delivered as virtual premieres in a programme of more than 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.
Small Axe has been executive produced by Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner for Turbine Studios and Steve McQueen for Lammas Park. Mike Elliot is producing for EMU Films with Turbine and Anita Overland. The executive producers for the BBC are Lucy Richer, Senior Commissioning Editor for Drama and Rose Garnett, Director of BBC Films. Amazon Studios is co-producing within the US. BBC Studios are the international distributors and are handling global television sales.
Small Axe will premiere on BBC One and iPlayer this autumn and air on Amazon Prime Video in the US.
The 64th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express takes place from Wednesday 7 October to Sunday 18 October 2020. The full Festival programme will be announced at an online launch on Tuesday 8 September 2020 and all tickets will be bookable via venue partners.