Idris Elba and Denzel Washington bookend London Film Festival

The BFI has indicated that a key theme of this year’s London Film Festival will be race, in a year that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was brought to its knees by the revelation that it had no members of black African or Caribbean origin and that black footballers continue to face abuse, both online and in stadiums.

Idris Elba stars as an outlaw, recently released from prison, in Jeymes Samuel’s first feature, The Harder They Fall.

The opening film, on 6th October, will be The Harder They Fall, from the director Jeymes Samuel. In what the BFI describes as an “assured, righteously new western,” Jonathan Majors plays an outlaw who rounds up a gang to seek revenge on his enemy, played by Idris Elba.

The film will be screened simultaneously at cinemas across the UK, ahead of a theatrical release, before being available on Netflix.

Samuel said it was a great honour to have the world premiere of his first feature opening the festival. “Growing up in the UK, the festival has always been the highlight of my year and I couldn’t have imagined anything better than to have my debut film included in this year’s line-up.”

The head of the festival, Tricia Tuttle, described the feature as “brutal and funny genre filmmaking,” and said, “Jeymes Samuel has come out with both guns blazing with his lightning-paced, witty and phenomenally entertaining new western.”

Eleven days later, the festival will close with the latest film from Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth, with Denzel Washington playing Shakespeare’s Scottish king. Described by the BFI as a “fierce adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic, a tale of murder, madness, ambition and wrathful cunning,” the film will be screened at the Royal Festival Hall.

LFF director Tricia Tuttle says “Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington mesmerise as the couple whose political ambition proved their fatal downfall.”

“Shakespeare belongs to the world but comes from Britain,” said Joel Coen. “Having borrowed your cultural patrimony, and having had the great good luck to work with a few or your most brilliant actors, I’m honoured to bring this movie to the London Film Festival for its European premiere.”

“Poised in a magical space between theatre and cinema, this is a stunning production,” said Tuttle in a statement. “While the ensemble cast – including many UK talents – is thoroughly excellent, Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington mesmerise as the couple whose political ambition proved their fatal downfall,” she continued.

The festival will also see the launch of the second feature from the film-maker and playwright Debbie Tucker Green, Ear For Eye, which follows black families, friends, students and older generation, navigating British and American society today. The film will be screened on BBC Two the same evening.

The BFI has also previously announced that another highlight of the festival will be Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst.

The rest of the programme will be announced next month.