Updated: Thursday, 21st November 2019 @ 5:16pm

Manchester Film Festival 2019: 150+ films to feature in special fifth edition

Manchester Film Festival 2019: 150+ films to feature in special fifth edition

| By Harry Benbow

Manchester Film Festival have announced their official line up for this year, as well as an expanded length for the fifth edition of the event.

The festival, which takes place at ODEON, Great Northern in Manchester, will run from March 2-10 and screen more than 150 films across the week. This includes narrative and documentary features and shorts, experimental films, music videos, animations and virtual reality.

In another new turn for the festival, all narrative feature films will be screened twice and there will be more daytime events, giving attendees more chance to see everything on show.

In partnership with Old Granada Studios, the festival will also host free live audiences with filmmakers and invited guests throughout the week, giving audiences their chance to probe the folks behind the camera.

These new additions reflect the ever-growing nature of the festival, which started with just over 70 films shown five years ago.

The festival will have world premieres of many films, including Limbo, starring James Purefoy, which follows a serial killers court case in hell. The Runaways, starring The Full Monty star Mark Addy and Brassed Off’s Tara Fitzgerald, will also premiere alongside Far from the Apple Tree, led by Sorcha Groundsell, which follows an artist who gets her dream job, but it soon turns sinister.

Also programmed is the UK premiere of indie flick Princess of the Row, which stars one of the biggest names of the festival - hollywood legend Martin Sheen. Paris Song will also make its UK debut, with Abbie Cornish as the Kazakh singer, Amre Kashaubayev, who journeys to Paris to compete in an international singing competition.

A trio of horror films are scheduled with premiers for Russ Creek, a survival horror thriller, Isabelle starring Adam Brody and Celeste, with Radha Mitchell.

The documentary state is just as strong, with something for everyone, including the UK premiere of Unravelling Athena, which follows various women's tennis champions journeys to success, with contributions from the Williams sisters Serena and Venus and Billie Jean King.

There’s more for sports fan with Cradle of Champions getting its world premiere, which follows three young people as they battle to change their lives through the three-month odyssey of the New York Daily News Golden Gloves boxing tournament.

Public Figure also has its UK premiere, with a big contribution from Denzel Washington, looking at society’s obsession with social media.

Music fans can enjoy Leonard Bernstein - A Genius Divided and short documentary There’s A Hell Of A Racket Coming From Your House, Mrs. Wood which looks at The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood’s contemporary art projects.

And for the filmmaking enthusiasts Ballad of a Righteous Merchant looks at Werner Herzog’s filmmaking process - including interviews with stars Michael Shannon, Chloë Sevigny and Willem Dafoe.

On the wackier side of things there will also be the European premiere of The Pretender, a fly-on-the-wall exploration of a professional Rocky impersonator who has embodied the character full time. 

ALCOHOLIC KITE

To commemorate the fifth edition of the festival, there will be screenings of films starring previous alumni of the festival, including 1984 starring John Hurt, Olivia Cooke in The Signal, Holes starring Shia LaBeouf, Animal House with Karen Allen, and Velvet Goldmine with Jonathan Rhys Myers.

Other documentary shorts include Lifeboat, which documents the refugees risking their lives by leaving Libya on rubber boats and The Firefighter, which sees Ricky Nuttall recite his poem about his experiences the night he went into Grenfell Tower.

There are 14 short films programmed, including the legendary Joan Collins in Gerry, following an old woman who uncovers a long-buried secret. Melissa Leo stars in The View From Up Here, Chris Messina in Too Long at The Fair and Game of Thrones favourite Aiden Gillen in comedy short I Didn’t… I Wasn’t... I Amn’t... (An Unromantic Comedy).

The North West Shorts programme will celebrate the North West’s filmmaking talent, with The Sea and How A Kite Flies premiering, the latter features Sir Ian McKellen voicing an alcoholic kite - yes, you read that correctly.

This stacked selection truly offers something for everyone, and the festival is sure to attract big audiences as it continues to innovate and make a name for itself.

The festivals Head of Programming Al Bailey says: “This year’s line-up is the perfect example of what we set out to achieve five years ago – a showcase of the most eclectic independent films from around the world and the strength of the selection shows the reputation that the festival has and continues to gain.”

There are more announcements to come in the following weeks regarding the special guests at the opening and close of the festival, but one thing is for sure - Manchester Film Festival is bigger than ever and is certain to only expand from here.

Image courtesy of Manchester Film Festival via YouTube, with thanks.