Steve McQueen’s ‘Mangrove’ to Open BFI London Film Festival

“Mangrove,” directed by BAFTA and Oscar winner Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), will open the 64th edition of the British Film Institute London Film Festival.

Written by McQueen and Alastair Siddons, “Mangrove” is one of five films that make up the “Small Axe” anthology. Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, the films each tell a different story involving London’s West Indian community. Other films in the “Small Axe” anthology are “Lovers Rock,” “Education,” “Alex Wheatle” and “Red, White and Blue.”

Marking 50 years since the events depicted in the film, “Mangrove” tells the true story of the Mangrove 9, the group of Black activists who clashed with London police during a protest march in 1970 and their highly publicized trial that followed.

The cast includes Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”), Shaun Parkes (“Lost in Space”), Malachi Kirby (“Curfew”), Rochenda Sandall (“Line of Duty”), Jack Lowden (“The Long Song”), Sam Spruell (“Snow White and the Huntsmen”), Gershwyn Eustache Jnr. (“The Gentlemen”), Nathaniel Martello-White (“Collateral”), Richie Campbell (“Liar”), Jumayn Hunter (“Les Misérables”), and Gary Beadle (“Summer of Rockets”).

The Cannes official selection will play at the New York film festival before receiving its European premiere at venues across the U.K. Oct. 7, ahead of its broadcast on BBC One and Amazon Prime Video this fall. It is free to attend but tickets have to be pre-booked.

McQueen said: “I couldn’t be happier that ‘Mangrove’ will open this year’s BFI London Film Festival. Although the themes are universal, ‘Mangrove’ is a London story. It may have happened 50 years ago, but it’s as relevant today as it was then.”

The BFI London Film Festival is adopting a physical-online hybrid model this year. There will be 55 virtual festival premieres for audiences to consume from home and up to 12 previews of upcoming films that will screen in cinemas across the U.K.

“This new series from Oscar-winning director and BFI Fellow Steve McQueen could not be more timely in the context of recent global protests around anti-Black racism and inequality, and McQueen has been a powerful voice in challenging the status quo and demanding inclusion within the British film industry,” said festival director, Tricia Tuttle. “His ‘Widows’ also opened the 62nd BFI London Film Festival in 2018, and we have never had the same filmmaker open the LFF twice in such a close time frame; that’s both a testament to the urgency of the film and potency of his filmmaking.”

“Small Axe” is executive produced by Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner for Turbine Studios, and McQueen for Lammas Park. Mike Elliot produced for EMU Films with Turbine and Anita Overland. Executive producers for the BBC are Lucy Richer, senior commissioning editor for drama, and Rose Garnett, director of BBC Films. Amazon Studios is co-producing within the U.S. BBC Studios is the international distributor and is handling global television sales.

The festival, in association with American Express, runs Oct. 7-18.

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