New films starring Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy lead the charge of British productions set to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Thompson stars as a retired teacher who starts a relationship with a young sex worker (played by Irish actor Daryl McCormack). Directed by Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde (Animals, 52 Tuesdays), it’s the first film to be written by comedian and TV star Katy Brand.

Nighy leads Living, Moffie director Oliver Hermanus’s remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952). Screenwriter and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro has written the screenplay, relocating the action to London in the 1950s, while rising British stars Aimee Lou Wood and Alex Sharp join Nighy and Tom Burke on screen.

In the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, director Jim Archer’s comedy Brian and Charles is based on his short of the same name, which won gold at the young director awards in Cannes. Written by and starring David Earl and Chris Hayward as the eponymous pair, it’s about a man living in a Welsh valley who invents a robot companion, and was backed by the BFI Film Fund with National Lottery funding.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

Living, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and Brian and Charles were all supported by the UK Global Screen Fund International Distribution strand, financed by the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and administered by the BFI.

Three UK productions have a berth in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Joe Hunting’s We Met in Virtual Reality offers a look at digital relationships in the pandemic era, Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes is an India/UK co-production portrayal of two brothers in New Delhi, while Irish/UK co-production Nothing Compares (backed by the BFI Doc Society Fund) is Belfast-born director Kathryn Ferguson’s documentary about singer Sinéad O’Connor.

Among other British films to premiere at the festival, Scottish feature debutant Jono McLeod’s My Old School offers an intriguing story about Brandon Lee, one of his former classmates (though no relation to the late son of Bruce Lee). The film stars Alan Cumming and includes a blend of live action and animation in its depiction of a notorious imposter.

Also screening, the latest film to focus on Princess Diana, following Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s Spencer. The Princess has been created by director Ed Perkins from archive footage of Diana.

Brian and Charles (2022)

Showing in the midnight strand, documentary Meet Me In the Bathroom sees directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern focus on the New York City music scene of the early 2000s. The pair have pedigree in this area, having previously directed LCD Soundsystem concert doc Shut Up and Play the Hits. The film is inspired by Lizzy Goodman’s book of the same name, itself named for The Strokes song.

The festival will also see a screening of Bianca Stigter’s feature-length film essay Three Minutes: A Lengthening, a Netherlands/UK co-production, which played Telluride and Venice film festivals in 2021.

In the New Frontier section, home to VR and immersive works, UK/Australia co-production Child of Empire and UK/France/US co-production On the Morning You Wake (to the End of the World) can be experienced.

UK short film Precious Hair & Beauty by John Ogunmuyiwa will also play Sundance. It debuted in the UK at the BFI London Film Festival last year.

Three short film co-productions round things off, with Elijah Ndoumbe’s Prayers for Sweet Waters (South Africa/UK), Renee Zhan’s Soft Animals (US/UK) and Olive Nwosu’s Egúngún (UK/Nigeria) playing the festival, with the latter having premiered at LFF.

Sundance will not have an in-person festival at its usual base of Park City, Utah this year. Aside from a few satellite screenings at selected cinemas across the US, the festival will be screened online.

Full list of Sundance films backed by the BFI

BFI Film Fund

Brian and Charles
On the Morning You Wake (to the End of the World)

BFI Doc Society Fund

Child of Empire
Nothing Compares

BFI NETWORK

Child of Empire
Egúngún (Masquerade)
Prayers for Sweet Waters
Precious Hair and Beauty

UK Global Screen Fund

Brian and Charles
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Living