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Cannes: Charlie Chaplin Doc, Directorial Debut From ‘I May Destroy You’ Star Among BFI’s “Great8”

The Hollywood Reporter logo The Hollywood Reporter 10/6/2021 Alex Ritman

A romantic comedy from one of the co-stars of I May Destroy You and a documentary shedding new light on the life, times and genius of Charlie Chaplin are among this year’s “Great8” showcase, eight upcoming features from emerging U.K. filmmakers that the British Film Institute and British Council will be throwing their weight behind ahead of the upcoming online Cannes Marché.

Now in its fourth year, the Great8 initiative — funded and run by the BFI and the British Council, in partnership with BBC Film and Film4 — will see the eight films, all of which are now in post-production, presented to international distributors and festival programmers. Previous titles to be get the Great8 treatment include acclaimed debuts such as Rose Glass’s Saint Maud, Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch and Nick Rowland’s Calm With Horses, while the likes of IFC, Bleecker Street, Apple, Neon, Le Pacte, Madman Entertainment and Mubi have been among the attendees.

In preparation for the Marché, unseen first-look footage from each of the titles will be introduced by their filmmakers and screened on June 17 exclusively to buyers and festival programmers and made available across five different time zones.

The 2021 Great8 lineup includes:

Ballywater

Drama

Director: Prasanna Puwanarajah

Writer: Stacey Gregg

Producers: James Bierman, Nik Bower

Cast: Seána Kerslake, Patrick Kielty

Production – Empire Street Productions/Riverstone Pictures/Cowtown Pictures

Sales: Bankside Films

Synopsis – Eileen is a caustic, unrepentant university drop-out whose dreams of a successful life in London have fallen by the wayside. Back at home with her mum, she makes ends meet by working as an unlicensed driver in her ex-boyfriend’s minicab. Shane has exiled himself in Ballywalter following the break-up of his marriage, but he’s trying to get his life back on track by enrolling in a stand-up comedy course. When Shane calls a taxi to get him to his classes, Eileen answers and a surprising connection is made. As the two spend time together shuttling back and forth, a beautiful friendship develops, leading both Eileen and Shane to a moment of realisation. Ballywalter is a life-affirming story about the unexpected connections that can change the course of our lives.

Puwanarajah is a director, actor and writer. He appeared in Doctor Foster, Patrick Melrose, Defending the Guilty and Three Families, while his 2018 production of The Reluctant Fundamentalist was nominated for The Carol Tambor Award and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

A BanquetPsychological horror

Director: Ruth Paxton

Writer: Justin Bull

Producers: Leonora Darby, Mark Lane, James Harris, Nik Bower, Laure Vaysse

Cast: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Kaine Zajaz, Lindsay Duncan

Production: Tea Shop Productions/Riverstone Pictures/REP Productions 8

Sales: Hanway Films

Synopsis – Widowed mother Holly is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith, Betsey refuses to eat, but loses no weight. In an agonising dilemma, torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs. A slow-burn psychological horror with supernatural elements, A Banquet explores the strains and the love between three generations of mothers and daughters.

A Screen Academy Scotland graduate in film and TV, Paxton’s award-winning shorts include Pulse and Paris/Sexy, which both premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and Be Still My Beating Heart, starring Maxine Peake, which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2019.

Boxing DayRomantic comedy

Director: Aml Ameen

Writer: Aml Ameen, Bruce Purnell

Producers: Matthew G Zamias, Damian Jones, Aml Ameen, Dominique Telson, Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor

Cast: Aml Ameen, Aja Naomi King, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Tamara Lawrence

Production: DJ Films, Studi0 113, BFI, Film4, Warner Bros UK

Sales: Rocket Science

Synopsis – Boxing Day is a celebration of love and family through a Black-British lens, inspired by director Aml Ameen’s own life. The film follows Melvin, a British author living in America who returns home to London for Christmas to introduce his American fiancée Lisa to his eccentric British-Caribbean family. Their relationship is put to the test, as she discovers the world her fiancé has left behind.

Ameen started his career as an actor, breaking out in the cult classic Kidulthood (2006). He became a series regular on BAFTA-winning TV series The Bill while in 2013 he played the young Cecile Gains in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, followed by roles in The Maze Runner and Sense8. In 2020 Ameen co-starred in Michaela Coel’s acclaimed series I May Destroy You.

Brian and CharlesComedy

Director: Jim Archer

Writer: David Earl, Chris Hayward

Producer: Rupert Majendie

Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Nina Sosanya

Production: Mr Box, BFI, Film4

Sales: Bankside Films

Synopsis – Brian lives alone in a remote village in the countryside. Something of an outcast, he spends his spare time inventing things out of found objects in his garage. Without friends or family to rely on, Brian decides to build a robot for company. ‘Charles’ is not only Brian’s most successful invention, but it appears to have a personality all of its own. Without friends or family to rely on, Brian decides to build a robot for company. However, Charles creates more problems than Brian bargained for, and the timid inventor has to face up to several issues in his life: his eccentric ways, a local bully, and a woman he’s always been fond of but never had the nerve to talk to. Brian and Charles is a feel-good comedy about friendship, love and letting go. And a 7ft tall robot that eats cabbages.

Archer is a writer and director who cut his teeth shooting comedy sketches before writing and directing his debut short film Intervention in 2014, later winning the Young Director Award at Cannes Lions for the short film version of Brian and Charles. He has also directed a number of TV shows, including the second season of The Young Offenders for the BBC.

The Real Charlie ChaplinDocumentary

Directors: Peter Middleton, James Spinney

Writers: Oliver Kindeberg, Peter Middleton, James Spinney

Producers: Ben Limberg, John Battsek, Mike Brett, Steve Jamieson, Jo-Jo Ellison

Production: Archer’s Mark, Passion Pictures, Smaller Biggie, BFI, Film4, Showtime

Sales: Altitude Film Sales

Synopsis – From the award-winning creative team behind Notes On Blindness and Listen To Me, Marlon comes a contemporary take on cinema’s most iconic figure. In an innovative blend of newly-unearthed audio recordings, dramatic reconstructions and personal archive, the film traces Charlie Chaplin’s meteoric rise from the slums of Victorian London to the heights of Hollywood superstardom, before his scandalous fall from grace. Refracting his life through a kaleidoscope of previously unheard voices and perspectives, the film sheds new light on the many sides of a ground-breaking, controversial and visionary artist. For decades he was the most famous man in the world but who was The Real Charlie Chaplin?

Middleton and Spinney have been working together for the past decade on a range of creative non-fiction projects. In 2014 they adapted the audio diaries of Australian theologian John Hull into a series of short films, including the Emmy Award-winning Notes On Blindness. Their debut feature with the same title premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, going on to receive three BAFTA nominations (including Outstanding British Film) and winning the BIFA for Best Documentary.

Ride the WaveDocumentary

Director: Martyn Robertson

Producers: Martyn Robertson, Louise Storrie

Production: Blackhouse Films

Sales: MetFilm Sales

Synopsis – Having participated in competition surfing since he turned 11, 14-year-old Scottish champion Ben Larg is not afraid of a challenge, and what bigger challenge for a young surfer than one of the biggest and most dangerous cold water waves in the world at Mullaghmore, Ireland. If he gets it right, he joins an elite group. If he gets it wrong, the consequences are terrifying. Danger, opportunity, and parental dilemma collide, propelling Ben and his family towards an unknown destiny.

Director and producer Robertson trained at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has produced and directed a range of short films which have screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. In 2015 his no-budget documentary Marty Goes to Hollywood won a BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award and sold to Amazon Prime.

She WillPsychological thriller

Director: Charlotte Colbert

Writer: Kitty Percy, Charlotte Colbert

Producers: Jessica Malik, Bob Last

Cast: Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett

Production: Popcorn Group, Rocket Science, Intermission Film, Pressman Film

Sales: Rocket Science

Synopsis – After a double mastectomy, fading star Veronica Ghent goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse Desi. The two develop an unlikely bond after mysterious forces give Veronica the power to enact revenge in her dreams.

Colbert is an established artist and an award-winning filmmaker. She has written a number of award-winning screenplays for Olivier Dahan, Eric Cantona, Tony Grisoni and Harry Wootliff and has also written and directed award-winning short films including The Silent Man (2016) starring Simon Amstell and Sophie Kennedy Clarke.

True ThingsDrama

Director: Harry Wootliff

Writer: Harry Wootliff, Molly Davies

Producers: Tristan Goligher, Ruth Wilson, Ben Jackson, Jude Law

Cast: Ruth Wilson, Tom Burke

Production: The Bureau, Lady Lazarus, Riff Raff UK, BFI, BBC Film

Sales: The Bureau Sales

Synopsis – Kate is sleep-walking through life when a chance sexual encounter with a charismatic stranger awakens her. High on infatuation, what follows is an intoxicating car crash.

Harry Wootliff is a writer and director whose debut short film Nits was BAFTA nominated and selected for Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. Her second short Trip premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and was screened at 30 festivals worldwide. Her first feature film Only You, starring Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor, premiered at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival and won the BIFA award for Best Debut Director and was nominated for Outstanding Debut at the BAFTAs.

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