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BFI London Film Festival 2023

It’s all change at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. After the departure of Tricia Tuttle, this year sees the arrival of incoming artistic director Kristy Matheson, who previously curated the Edinburgh International Film Festival. She calls this year’s selection a “heartfelt cinematic mixtape” and with big-name titles from Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest), Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon) and Sofia Coppola (Priscilla) it is hard to disagree. Here’s our selection of five must-see titles, all with a British twist.

Saltburn | Emerald Fennell, 2023

The opening gala is a huge coup for the festival. It marks the return to directing for Emerald Fennell following her Oscar win for feature debut Promising Young Woman. Set in the upper echelons of British aristocratic society, Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin), an actor who just seems to go from strength to strength, plays a young student navigating his way through Oxford University. Joining him on screen are Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike and Fennell’s Promising Young Woman star Carey Mulligan, as well as Jacob Elordi – also to be seen in the festival as Elvis Presley in Priscilla.

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The Kitchen | Daniel Kaluuya, 2023

One of the most celebrated British actors of his generation, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah) makes the big move behind the camera, co-writing and co-directing this near-future Netflix-backed tale, which closes the festival. Set in London 2040, Top Boy star Kane Robinson plays Izi, a funeral worker looking to get out of the gloomy estate known as The Kitchen where he grew up and still lives. Kaluuya co-directs with rising filmmaker Kibwe Tavares, who previously broke out with 2017 short Robot & Scarecrow, with Jack O’Connelly and Holliday Grainger.

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All of Us Strangers | Andrew Haigh, 2023

British writer-director Andrew Haigh has already quietly carved out a reputation as one of our most sensitive and sensual filmmakers, with films such as Weekend and 45 Years. Fresh from his BBC period drama series The North Water, he returns to cinemas with All of Us Strangers. This enigmatic relationship tale stars Andrew Scott as Adam, a screenwriter living in London, who bonds with his mysterious new neighbour Paul Mescal (Normal People) as he comes to reckon with his own past. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy make up an exemplary cast.

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Silver Haze | Sacha Polak, 2023

Silver Haze sees the reunion of Dutch-born director Sacha Polak with British actress Vicky Knight, who previously starred in the director’s 2019 film Dirty God. While that told the story of a mother who was left scarred by an acid attack, this is more loosely inspired by Knight’s own life. She plays Frankie, a nurse who was left burned after a fire and still simmers with resentment. Co-starring Esmé Creed-Miles – daughter of Samantha Morton – this is a raw look at love

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Girl | Adura Onashile, 2023

After her eye-catching 2020 short Expensive Shit, Adura Onashile makes her feature debut with the Glasgow-set Girl, a mother-daughter story that’s already been warmly received on the festival circuit. It stars Déborah Lukumuena, the rising French actress who already made a big impression opposite Gerard Depardieu in Robust. Here, she plays Grace, a cleaner who is a single parent to daughter Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu), spending much of her time shielding her child from the world outside.  

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BFI London Film Festival: 4-15 October

Words: James Mottram