Lenny Abrahamson to serve as the Jury President at this years BFI London Film Festival

Room director Lenny Abrahamson will serve as the Jury President for this year’s BFI London Film Festival, picking a winner from a list of 10 films in official competition. The Best Film award will be handed out in front of a public audience for the first time at a special gala screening on Saturday 20th October at Vue Leicester Square.

“I am delighted to continue my relationship with the BFI London Film Festival,” says Abrahamson. “It’s an honour to be this year’s Jury Chair and I am very much look forward to deliberating with my fellow jurors on what is sure to be some of the most exciting, thought-provoking and original work in this year’s selection of films.”

This year’s crop is more diverse than ever with half of the selected films made by a female director. Ben Wheatley, Peter Strickland, David Lowery and Zhang Yimou make the cut - as do the films starring Nicole Kidman, Robert Redford, and Sam Riley - along with a host of newer names from a range of countries, working in a mix of genres. 

The full list of nominees and synopses below.

Birds Of Passage (Pájaros De Verano) - Christina Gallego, Ciro Guerra

“A sprawling, spiritual exploration of family conflict and tribal warfare, laced with heady symbolism and surrealist flashes. Set during the marijuana bonanza, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia bear witness to the thrilling rise and fall of the indigenous Wayuu clan in remote Colombia. A mystical meditation on colonialism, tribalism and modernism.”

Destroyer - Karyn Kusama

“Nicole Kidman is astonishing, and almost unrecognisable, in Karyn Kusama’s (The Invitation) brooding thriller Destroyer. Kidman plays Erin, a jaded police detective haunted by her past and still reeling from the trauma of her experience years later, who is forced to confront her demons in order to close the case that almost destroyed her. The film also stars Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany and Toby Kebbell.”

Happy As Lazzaro (Lazzaro Felice) - Alice Rohrwacher

“Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders) returns to the Festival with Happy As Lazzaro. A delightfully singular time and genre-bending rumination on the fate of innocence when faced with corruption and greed. Set in rural Italy, this is the tale of Lazzaro, a beautiful peasant so sweet natured he is often mistaken for simple-minded. A magnificent blend of Italian class struggle, folk tales, biblical allegory and pop culture reference, Rohrwacher deservedly shared the Best Screenplay award at Cannes for this kaleidoscopic work.” 

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead - Ben Wheatley

The World Premiere of Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is Ben Wheatley’s triumphant return to the Festival after Free Fire. A poignantly funny and razor-sharp observation of English family dysfunction. Colin has rented a stately country home for his extended family’s New Year celebrations. He’s the centre of attention until his estranged brother David unexpectedly arrives, throwing the family dynamic far off orbit. Starring Joe Cole, Charles Dance, Mark Monero, Hayley Squires, Asim Chaudhry, Doon Mackichan, Bill Paterson, Neil Maskell and Sam Riley.”

In Fabric - Peter Strickland

“Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy) returns to the Festival with In Fabric, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Gwendoline Christie. A haunting ghost story, laced with lashings of oddball humour and set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a strange department store, it follows the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences.

Joy - Sudabeh Mortezai

“Directed by Sudabeh Mortezai (whose debut feature Macondo competed for the LFF’s Sutherland Award in 2014), Joypresents a vital and hugely affecting drama that tackles the vicious cycle of sex trafficking in modern Europe. It follows the life of Joy, a young Nigerian woman, who works the streets to pay off debts to her exploiter Madame, while supporting her family in Nigeria and hoping for a better life for her young daughter in Vienna.”

The Old Man & The Gun - David Lowery

The Old Man And The Gun, directed by David Lowery, stars Robert Redford in what will be his final big screen performance after recently announcing retirement. A brilliantly entertaining crime caper, based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, the self-styled ‘Houdini’ whose many audacious prison breaks included an Alcatraz flight in a homemade kayak, and whose last robbery was committed when he was 79. Offering bittersweet reflections on time and age, The Old Man & The Gunis a testament to a free-spirit who steadfastly refused to go quietly. The film also stars Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck.”

Shadow (Ying) - Zhang Yimou

“Iconic director Zhang Yimou presents Shadow, set during China's Three Kingdom's era (AD 220-280). Blood spills in this visually stunning feature, as a great king and his people will be expelled from their homeland, with jaw-dropping combat scenes. Director Zhang presents mind-blowing visual design that revolutionises the colour palette, using water, calligraphy and graphic interpretations of yin and yang.”

Sunset (Napszállata) - László Nemes

“Academy Award winner László Nemes follows up his critically acclaimed debut Son of Saul (2015) with his feverishly ambitious second feature. Set in 1913, nearing the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and on the eve of the First World War. Írisz Leiter is a hat maker who returns to Budapest years after her parents, respected milliners, sent her to be fostered under mysterious circumstances. A fugue-like meditation on the end of an empire; the brilliantly willful Írisz is our witness to the flickering innocence of a Europe about to be plunged into hell.”

Too Late To Die Young (Tarde Para Morir Joven) - Dominga Sotomayor 

Too Late To Die Young is a woozily gorgeous evocation of life on the fringe of society. Set during the summer of 1990, after Pinochet’s fall, democracy has returned to Chile. Three youngsters drive up to a woodland commune below the Andes, where they idle the summer away while their parents debate the future. In their isolated community, Sofia, Lucas and Clara face their first loves and fears while building up for New Year’s Eve. Youthful desire, ennui and mischief have rarely felt so tangible. The film is directed by Dominga Sotomayor.”

The festival runs between 10-21 October, and tickets should be available soon via the BFI website