Sir Steve McQueen’s Mangrove to open BFI London Film Festival

Mangrove will open the BFI London Film Festival, it has been announced.

It is one of five films from director Sir Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series for BBC One.

It will be part of the festival’s expanded online presence and regional screenings, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and concerns over accessibility.

The majority of this year’s festival will feature virtual premieres from a programme of more than 55 films, many with an introduction and Q&A, as well as talks, roundtables and a new exhibition of immersive art.

Mangrove, which stars Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby, will receive its European premiere on October 7.

The film comes after the 50th anniversary of the march of 150 protesters of West Indian, African and South Asian heritage in Notting Hill, west London.

They marched to local police stations in protest against police harassment in their communities including the Mangrove restaurant, and nine protest leaders – Frank Crichlow, Darcus Howe, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Innis, Rothwell Kentish and Godfrey Millett – were arrested and charged with incitement to riot.

The group later became known as the Mangrove 9.

Sir Steve 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.”

Festival audiences will be invited to book tickets to preview the film for free at venues across the UK on October 7 ahead of its broadcast on BBC One this autumn.

Tricia Tuttle, director of the BFI London Film Festival, said: “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.

“His Widows also opened the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (LFF) 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.”

Mangrove and 11 other new films from the programme will screen in previews across the UK, in partnership with a UK-wide cinemas network, to craft the most audience-accessible version of the festival to date.

The event will run from October 7 to 18.