Steve McQueen and Francis Lee to bookend London Film Festival

The organisers of the London Film Festival have announced the opening and closing night films for this year’s Covid-affected event.

Steve McQueen’s Mangrove – which was part of the unseen Cannes selection this year – will play on the first night at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas across the UK, free of charge.

Steve McQueen’s tale of racial tensions, Mangrove, will open this year’s London Film Festival, with free screenings across the UK

Starring Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby, the film depicts the events of 50 years ago, when a group of black activists known as the Mangrove 9, clashed with police during a march in London, leading to a a highly publicised trial that resulted in the first judicial acknowledgment of racist behaviour within the Metropolitan Police. The film will be broadcast on BBC One in the Autumn.

The festival’s director, Tricia Tuttle, said the film could not be more timely, in the context of recent global protests around anti-Black racism and inequality. McQueen’s Widows opened the LFF just two years ago. Tuttle says that starting the event with a film from the same director so soon is “both a testament to the urgency of the film and the potency of his filmmaking.”

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, in Francis Lee’s Ammonite, will close LFF 2020

Twelve days later, the largely online festival will be brought to a close with the UK Premiere of Francis Lee’s Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, with screenings in cinemas around the country, ahead of its theatrical release next year.

The film depicts the acclaimed 1840s paleontologist, Mary Anning, and her relationship with the young wife of a rich American tourist.

Lee said he was thrilled to have his film chosen to close the festival. “It’s wonderful to see this film about intimacy, love and hope getting its UK premiere at LFF.”

Between the two films, a dozen others will be previewed across the UK, at venues in Bristol, Sheffield, Cardiff, Glasgow and Nottingham among others, while more than 50 other titles will be available on the BFI’s own online platform, BFI Player.