The BFI London Film Festival returns in 2022 with a range of diverse films that you really ought to see. Read on for our guide on what to watch.
The 66th BFI London Film Festival taking place between 5-16 October, is arguably the UK’s leading film event and undoubtedly where you will have the opportunity to watch some of the most exciting and wide-ranging catalogue of films of the year.
In addition to less well known, independent films, attendees can also look forward to enjoying the premieres of some of the most anticipated films of the year. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, starring Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey as well as the star studded Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, with Leslie Odom Jr and Janelle Monáe rounding out the cast.
The BFI London Film Festival 2022 includes a UK wide cinema programme, special events, talks and guests expected to attend. However, with more than 100 films listed on the extensive programme, it can be a little daunting figuring out what to watch, but we’ve got you!
Read on for our guide on what to watch at the BFI London Film Festival 2022.
Nanny – directed by Nikyatu Jusu
Winner of the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, Nanny is a mesmerising and captivating debut feature from Nikyatu Jusu.
Aisha is a Senegalese nanny, working undocumented in New York for a wealthy white family. She looks after her ward Rose, secretly feeding the girl jollof rice when she won’t eat the food her mother leaves for her. Meanwhile, Aisha’s son remains at home in Senegal, as she tirelessly works to raise money for him to join her. As Aisha’s relationship with her employers’ gains complexity, so too does her connection to home, finding herself haunted by figures from West African folklore like the water spirit Mami Wata and the trickster god Anansi. What are these symbols trying to warn her about – her employers, or something darker lurking within her own life? With a stunning and distinctive visual style, Jusu weaves together a complex and tense portrait of labour, privilege and motherhood.
Nanny is a remarkably accomplished first feature with a layered and compelling performance from Anna Diop at its centre.
Showing: Fri 7 Oct 21:00 at the Southbank Centre
Sat 8 Oct 12:50 at BFI Southbank NFT2
Bobi Wine: Ghetto President – directed by Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp
This passionate and revealing documentary about the Ugandan musician, actor, activist and presidential hopeful is also a portrait of a country edging towards a significant turning point.
Robert Kyagulanyi was just three years old when Yoweri Museveni became President of Uganda in 1986. Although his government initially attracted the admiration of the international community, Museveni soon transformed the administration into an illiberal democracy. Kyagulanyi has long been a critic of Museveni, using his fame as an actor and popstar to campaign against him, often resulting in imprisonment and torture. But with his involvement in and the increasing popularity of the Resistant Movement Party, Kyagulanyi, better known to his supporters as Bobi Wine, has become a significant force across the country’s political landscape.
Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp’s riveting film reflects how a generation of young Ugandans, who once felt marginalised, see hope in Kyagulanyi and the movement he represents.
Showing: Sat 8 October 15:10 at Curzon Mayfair
Sun 9 Oct 20:15 at BFI Southbank NFT2
Pretty Red Dress – Directed by Dionne Edwards
One dress changes everything for a family in Dionne Edwards’ spirited debut, which investigates Black masculinity and family structures.
Travis has just been released from prison and it quickly becomes apparent that much has changed while he’s been gone. While girlfriend Candice (an electrifying Alexandra Burke) is on the up and auditioning to star in a Tina Turner musical, daughter Kenisha is struggling in school and her relationship with her mum is tense. So, when Travis buys Candice her dream dress for an audition, rather than smoothing over the family’s problems, it ends up creating even more.
As secrets and desires left unsaid threaten to spill out, Travis is forced to re-examine who he is and how he wants to be perceived in the world.
In her skilfully directed first feature, Dionne Edwards crafts an uplifting family drama that will instantly fall into the canon of iconic London films.
Showing: Sun 9 October 20:45 at BFI Southbank NFT1
Thur 13 October 12:15 at BFI Southbank NFT1
The African Desperate – directed by Martine Syms
Martine Syms’ highly personal yet humorously insightful debut feature shares the reality of being a Black woman in the predominantly white contemporary art world.
The film opens with MFA student Palace being interviewed by three archetypal white faculty members, who unashamedly discuss the merit of her graduation work in relation to her ethnic origin whilst pretending to be mindful of radical Black thought. Clearly this is not the first time Palace is experiencing this kind of excruciatingly patronising conversation.
Her degree complete, Palace somewhat reluctantly proceeds to the graduation party where she and her fellow students can be together one last time. Multimedia artist Syms, in collaboration with fellow artist Diamond Stingily as Palace, has created a remarkably candid and imaginative drama.
Unfolding over a 24-hour period, this artsy, hyperactive marathon traces Palace’s mental journey, casting a satirical eye over the art world, with all its microaggressions, absurdity and hypocrisy.
Showing: Tue 11 Oct 18:15 at Prince Charles Theatre
Wed 12 Oct 18:00 at Curzon Soho Screen 2
Wed 12 Oct 18:15 at Curzon Soho Screen 3
Brother – directed by Clement Virgo
Clement Virgo’s film is a bold and breath-taking story of brotherly love, set over three separate time periods, in Toronto’s West Indian community.
When his childhood sweetheart Aisha returns to their Toronto neighbourhood of Scarborough for the first time in 10 years, Michael is forced to revisit a family tragedy. Growing up as young Black boys in a neighbourhood prone to gang violence and police brutality, older brother Francis was Michael’s best friend, protector and even parent when their Jamaican mother worked night shifts. As they grow older, Francis and Michael’s lives diverge, as Francis immerses himself in Scarborough’s West Indian community. But there remains a fierce, unconditional love between the brothers and their mother – it’s them against the world.
As a lonely and closed-off Michael is helped by Aisha to face the memories of a past that he’s been shutting out, he may finally be able to break free and love again.
Virgo movingly adapts David Chariandy’s bestselling book, creating a vibrant world and sensitively exploring complex but unbreakable family bonds.
Showing: Wed 12 Oct 17:50 at BFI Southbank NFT1
Thu 13 Oct 20:30 at BFI Southbank NFT2
Sun 16 Oct 20:40 at BFI Southbank Studio
Till – directed by Chinonye Chukwu
Director Chinonye Chukwu delivers on the promise of her debut, Clemency (LFF 2019).
While in Mississippi for a family visit, 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped and murdered after being wrongfully accused of harassing a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. When it became clear that the white establishment was unconcerned with bringing his killers to justice – and Bryant was prepared to lie to protect the murderers – Emmett’s mother Mamie turned reluctant activist, her fight becoming a major catalyst for the US Civil Rights movement.
Danielle Deadwyler brings deep emotional resonance to her role as Mamie Till-Mobley. With this expertly crafted and emotional period drama, produced by Barbara Broccoli and also starring Whoopi Goldberg, Londoner Tosin Cole and Haley Bennett, who plays Bryant with bitter hatefulness.
Chukwu shows great consideration to avoid exploiting the physical violence against Emmett, with much care evident in her construction of scenes of the attack. But she is also not interested in the comfort of audiences looking to identify with whiteness. As relevant now as ever, Till is intelligent, emotional and gripping from the first shot to the last.
Showing: Sat 15 Oct 17:30 at Southbank Centre
Sun 16 Oct 14:45 at Southbank NFT1
After Sherman – directed by Jon Sesrie Goff
In this soulful debut documentary, Jon-Sesrie Goff examines the history and traditions of his South Carolina birthplace.
Home is a complicated notion for Goff, as it is for many African Americans. How do you reconcile the fact that country you are born in is not the one from which your ancestors originated? And for Goff, home is a deeply unique place, having grown up in a small Gullah Geechee community, best known in popular culture from Julie Dash’s 1991 drama Daughters of the Dust.
Centred around a conversation between the director and his Reverend father, After Sherman is an expansive portrait of African Americans searching to preserve their sense of identity, grapple with a collective past and move beyond the tragedy of the Charleston shooting.
Shot through with Goff’s unique and experimental style, this is also a film about community, solidarity and joy.
Showing: Mon 10 Oct 18:15 at Institution of Contemporary Arts
Tue 11 Oct 13:45 at BFI Southbank NFT2
God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines – directed by Kristian R Hill
Revisit the African American origins of techno music in Kristian R Hill’s fascinating, hugely enjoyable and often surprising journey through the musical genre.
What’s the image that comes to mind when you think of techno? For most, it will likely be white men performing to huge crowds at festivals, laser shows and all-night clubs. What you might not immediately think of is young African American men in Detroit, influenced by the country’s history of dance music, and playing around with drum machines and synthesizers.
Using a wealth of archive footage and interviews, Hill not only traces the history of techno music, but African American culture and music, and how it all culminated in the creation of an utterly unique and distinctive sound.
With the re-emergence of techno and house influenced music this year, there’s no better film to take you back to its roots.
Showing: Thu 6 Oct 20:30 at Contemporary Arts
Sat 8 Oct 12:15 at Curzon Soho Screen 2
Sat 8 Oct Soho Screen 3
To learn more about the films view the BFI London Film Festival 2022 brochure.