If you like your films hard-hitting, thought provoking or just hilarious and a bit off the wall, but you also want a bit (or a lot) of glitz and glamour to go alongside it, then you’re in the right place with the Headline Galas and Special Presentations! Ranging from HUAC and the most defining events of 1950s Hollywood, to national treasure Maggie Smith living in a van for over 15 years, the chance of a young Irish woman to make a new life in New York to documenting the life of one of the world’s most famous teenagers: Malala Yousafzai, the Gala and Special Presentations program has something for everyone and enough red carpet and sparkles to go around.
American Express Gala
Carol (Todd Haynes, USA-UK, 2015)
Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s massively scandalous and culturally significant second novel The Price of Salt (1952) Carol tells the story of department store worker and aspiring photographer Theresa (Rooney Mara) in 1950s Manhattan, and her meeting with older woman Carol (Cate Blanchet). Carol’s marriage is breaking down and she and Theresa seem to gravitate towards each other, but in a time when homosexuality was still considered hugely controversial their meeting and subsequent relationship threatens Carol’s custody of her young daughter.
In development for 9 years before principle photography began last year, the film was shot using Super 16mm and received its world premiere at Cannes Film Festival. Carol lost out to Dheepan for the Palme D’Or, but Rooney Mara tied with French actress Emmanuelle Bercot (Mon Roi) for ‘Best Actress’. Following the film’s UK premiere on Wednesday 14th October in Leicester Square, Carol will go on general release across the UK in November.
Trumbo (Jay Roach, USA, 2015)
After receiving a 5 minute standing ovation at last month’s Toronto Film Festival, the Accenture Gala will serve as Trumbo’s UK premiere 3 months before the film is released theatrically here. In the Cold War era paranoia about communists known as ‘Red Scares’ was rife, and the ‘McCarthy Witch Hunts’ and the ‘Hollywood Blacklist’ remain to this day one of the most sensational stories of the time. The Hollywood Blacklist was a practise of refusing work to screenwriters, directors, actors/actresses, producers and other entertainment professionals who were suspected of having communist ties (often without evidence). In 1947 10 Hollywood professionals refused to testify for HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee), they became known as the ‘Hollywood Ten’. Trumbo follows the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, during this period.
With a sensational performance from Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, director Jay Roach crafts an enthralling and poignant portrait of a hugely talented writer, but moreover a man who refused to compromise his principles.
Virgin Atlantic Gala
Black Mass (Scott Cooper, USA, 2015)
With a fantastic ensemble cast including Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon, Black Mass joins the esteemed ranks of The Departed and The Wire with its gritty and chilling portrayal of crime and corruption in Boston. Based on the critically acclaimed 2001 non-fiction book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Black Mass charts the rise of Whitey Bulger, (Depp) and his rise to become one of America’s most notorious gangsters. With a shared goal of eliminating the Italian Mafia, FBI agent John Connolly (Edgerton) contacts Bulger, via his brother Billy (Cumberbatch) to persuade him to become an informant for the FBI. But what rising political star John Connolly doesn’t realise is that his actions are not only protecting Whitey Bulger, they are also allowing him to consolidate his powerbase, and if he exposes him it will cast aspersions on his motives and potentially ruin his political career.
May Fair Hotel Gala
Brooklyn (John Crowley, UK-Canada-Ireland, 2015)
Based on Colm Toibin’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name, Brooklyn tells the story of Ellis (Saoirse Ronan) a young immigrant from small town Ireland, trying to navigate New York City in the 1950s. Her initial homesickness is quickly washed away as new romance finds its way into her life, but a family tragedy causes her to return to Ireland where her old life begins to catch up with her, threatening her new life. Faced with the choice between handsome and doting Italian-American Tony, and old acquaintance Jim who is attracted by Ellis’ new sophisticated lifestyle, she must choose between staying in Ireland and going back to her old life, or going back to Brooklyn to continue building a new life in America.
The Lady in the Van (Nicholas Hytner, UK, 2015)
(Supported by the Mayor of London)
Director Nicholas Hytner teams up with screenwriter Alan Bennett once again to adapt another of Bennett’s brilliant plays, their previous successes have included The History Boys and The Madness of King George, but this year its Bennett’s 1999 West End smash hit The Lady in the Van that gets the big screen treatment.
Having already played the title role in the original stage production, and a subsequent radio version, Maggie Smith once again reprises her role as Miss Shepherd, a destitute, short-tempered woman, of an indeterminate age, who lives in her van in 1960s Camden. When she outstays her welcome with the neighbours, newcomer to the street Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) takes pity on Miss Shepherd and allows her to park her van on his driveway. What Alan doesn’t expect though is that Miss Shepherd will reside there until her death, some 15 years later.
High-Rise (Ben Wheatly, UK, 2015)
(In association with Empire)
Adapted from J. G. Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, High-Rise tells the story of young doctor Robert Laing after he moves into a luxurious, ultra modern high rise block of flats in 1970s London. Residing on the twenty fifth floor, Robert is seduced by the louche culture, attending nightly cocktail parties where he meets the building’s architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), and strikes up a relationship with his aide Charlotte (Sienna Miller).
It is only when he becomes friends with filmmaker Richard Wilder (Luke Evens) who has been relegated to the second floor, that the class system in place within the seemingly luxurious high-rise becomes clear. But Robert begins to learn more about the social hierarchy within the building, it all comes crashing down around him.
This dark and disturbing satirical take on social idealism of the time, has been a passion project of producer Jeremy Thomas for over 30 years. With the backdrop of 1970s decadence, Amy Jump’s brutal script and Ben Wheatly’s brilliant direction create savage yet glorious cacophony of excess where sex, drugs, nihilism and destruction all collide.
Documentary Special Presentation
He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggenheim, USA, 2015)
On October 9th 2012 when she rode home from school, 15 year old activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban, her crime? Campaigning for education for girls in Pakistan, something that we in the West take for granted, often with very little gratitude. He Named Me Malala follows the life of Malala, now one of the most famous 18 year olds in the world, as she went from being a 12 year old blogger for the BBC, to being targeted by the Taliban, to becoming the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Named after a famous Afghan poetess and warrior, Malala has become an inspiration to so many across the world, and represents a message of hope for women everywhere.
Fellowship Special Presentation
Truth (James Vanderbilt, Australia-USA, 2015)
In 2004 CBS show 60 Minutes and their research team discovered inaccuracies in President George W Bush’s military record, suggesting that he received preferential treatment to avoid the draft (conscription) during the Vietnam War. After this discovery, producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchet) and anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford), who shared a special relationship based on the desire to uncover facts and broadcast the truth, they went live on air with the explosive story, just ahead of the 2004 Presidential Elections. The chaos that ensued, officially the Killian Documents Controversy (also known as ‘Memogate’ and ‘Rathergate’, saw Mary Mapes and three other producers fired by CBS and Dan Rather’s retirement from 60 Minutes rapidly hastened.
Based on Mary Mapes’ 2005 memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power, first time director James Vanderbilt (screenwriter for Zodiac) and editor Richard Francis-Bruce (Se7en) have crafted an intense political drama that also explores the philosophical idea of ‘truth’, and how it co-exists with ideology and personal experiences.
For information regarding screening times and tickets, visit the BFI’s website x