Great8 showcase which presents new UK feature films from some of the UK’s most exciting first and second-time filmmakers to international distributors and festival programmers has announced eight new projects selected for this year’s edition taking place in the run-up to this year’s Cannes Marché.
Now in its sixth year, the 2023 Great8 showcase is funded and run by the BFI and the British Council, in partnership with BBC Film and Film4. In preparation for the Marché, unseen footage from all of the titles will be introduced by their filmmakers and screened on Thursday 11 May exclusively to buyers and festival programmers and made available across five different time zones. All of the features will be available to buyers during the Cannes Marché (16-24 May).
Great8 has built a reputation for highlighting films and filmmakers who have gone on to find international success including Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun (BAFTA Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, 2023), Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not A Witch (Camera d’Or nominee, 2017), Michael Pearce’s Beast BAFTA Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, 2019), Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean (Venice Giornate Degli Autori’s People’s Choice Award, 2022) and Rose Glass’s Saint Maud (BIFA Douglas Hickox Award, 2021, BFI London Film Festival, Best Film-Honourable Mention).
International buyers and festival programmers welcome the opportunity offered by the Great8 to have an early look at the consistently high quality new UK films and co-productions being produced and the introductions given by their filmmakers. Attendees have included Bleecker Street, SPC, Apple, IFC, Neon, A24, 30 West (US); Charades, Diaphana, Haut et Court, LE PACTE, The Jokers (France); Shochiku (Japan); UPIE, Transmission Films, Madman Entertainment (ANZ); Cherry Pickers (Netherlands); and MUBI.
Agnieszka Moody, BFI head of international & industry policy, says, “The line-up of films and filmmakers featuring in this year’s Great8 continues to shine a light on the exciting diversity of filmmaker voices and stories continuing to come out of the UK. We are proud alongside our partners at the British Council, BBC Film and Film4 that we our previous selections have been successful for international programmers and distributors, and with audiences worldwide.”
Briony Hanson, the British Council’s director of film says, “It’s a real privilege to be able to present eight UK filmmakers and have confidence in saying they are all destined for greatness. It’s been a tough call to narrow down the selection this year and we were spoilt for choice, but the final eight – ranging from our youngest ever Great8 talent to voices from across the whole UK – balances hard-hitting emotional drama with laughs and even a little song and dance. It doesn’t sound typically British – but trust us, it is!”
The Great8 2023 line-up is:
BLACK DOG (Header Image)
Synopsis – It’s 2006, and George – a small-town 16-year old – is on the road to complete social and academic failure. He dreams of being a star, knows he’s a gifted musician – but no one else seems to agree… So, when Max – the son of a mega-famous musical duo – enrols at his school and takes an interest in his music, George can’t believe it! Neither can anyone else. But as the boys grow closer, George begins to question why he actually wants to spend time with Max… George is faced with a potential dream come true – if he can just figure out what that dream now really is…
Julia Jackman is a writer/director who began her film career working for Stephen Fry at Sprout Pictures. Her first short, Emma Change The Locks, starring Olivia Williams, won a New Talent Award at the BFI Future Film Festival (2017). Her work has screened at festivals around the world, including the Toronto International Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival. She recently took part in the CFC Directors’ Lab in Toronto. Bonus Track is Julia’s debut feature.
CHUCK CHUCK BABY
Synopsis – A film of love, loss and music set amongst the falling feathers of a chicken factory. Present day, industrial north Wales. Helen spends her nights packing chickens and her days caring for dying mother-figure Gwen. Helen’s mundane world is turned upside down by the return of Joanne, a crush from her schooldays. The feeling is mutual, and as they fall in love, Helen’s zest for life returns – but Joanne feels the walls close in as she faces something darker from her past.
Janis Pugh is an award-winning writer/director. She grew up in north Wales surrounded by dynamic, working-class women. Their tangible force of energy and humour is something she reflects in her work, which explores the beauty and brutality of life. The inclusion of music and song is also a significant part of her work. Her work includes Blue Collars And Buttercups which won the Kodak Creative Filmmaking Award and screened at Locarno, Tampere and other festivals. Janis’s operatic short Butterfly was nominated for a Welsh BAFTA.
EDGE OF SUMMER
Sales: Dorothy Street Pictures, Julia Nottingham
Synopsis – When 11-year-old Evie arrives in Cornwall, she’s expecting a girls’ holiday with her mum. But when she meets local boy Adam, a mysterious discovery down an old tin mine changes everything. As they begin to question what is real and imagined in their lives above ground, childhood narratives quickly unravel and the darker truths of the adult world seep in.
Lucy Cohen is a London-based writer/director. After working in documentary filmmaking for 15 years, her debut feature, Kingdom Of US, was nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut, a BIFA and won the Grierson award for Best Documentary at the BFI London Film Festival. In 2017 she was selected for Guiding Lights, the UK film industry’s leading mentorship programme (where she was mentored by Andrew Haigh). In 2018, she was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, which celebrates and supports the next generation of creative talent in film and TV. Edge of Summer is Lucy’s debut fiction feature. Her second feature is in development with Film4 and the BFI.
Naqqash Khalid is a writer-director from Manchester. In Camera will have its international festival premiere later this year. His short film Stock was commissioned for television and had its premiere in 2019 as part of Sky’s Post-Brexit series ‘Art 50’. His previous short form work has been supported by Sky, BBC Arts, and Arts Council England. Naqqash is adapting Boris Vian’sThe Empire Builders as a four-part limited series. Naqqash was selected as one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow 2020. In Camera is his feature debut.
Synopsis – West Belfast, 2019. Fate brings together disillusioned music teacher JJ with self-confessed ‘low life scum’ Naoise and Liam Og, changing the sound of Irish music forever. Under the name Kneecap, their band begins moulding the language to fit their tough, anarchic, hedonistic lives. A language encumbered with forty words for stone now has one for stoned. But to get their voices heard the trio must overcome police, paramilitaries and politicians as the future of the Irish language erupts into the public arena – with them at the centre. Yet their worst enemies are often themselves, as family and relationship pressures threaten their dreams, and their illegal exploits draw condemnation from all sides.
Rich Peppiatt is a multi-award winning writer-director. His debut feature, documentary One Rogue Reporter, was adapted from his acclaimed comedy stage show, which debuted at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, before embarking on a national tour. The film premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest and was nominated for Best Independent Feature at the 2014 National Film Awards. It was acquired by Netflix in a multi-territory deal. A former journalist who became a prominent critic of the newspaper industry during the Leveson Inquiry, Rich has spoken about his work on national broadcast channels and published in The Guardian, Independent, and The Big Issue. He has written and directed several short films which have screened at leading international film festivals. His short, Grounded, was long listed for the 2020 Academy Awards®.
Sales: WME Independent (North America/global) and Independent Entertainment (international)
Synopsis – Layla is a struggling Arab drag queen whose confident façade hides their desperate desire for love. When their performance at a belittling corporate Pride event turns into a transgressive takedown, they are surprised to win the affection of marketing executive Max, whose attentions sweep Layla off their feet. The two start an intoxicating romance, but as Layla starts to alter who they are in order to keep Max’s affections, they both have to face uncomfortable truths.
Amrou Al-Kadhi is a screenwriter, director, drag queen, actor and author. Amrou has written and directed four short films, all centring queer people of colour. They have been broadcast on PBS, NOWNESS, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, and BFI Player and have played at BAFTA and Oscar®-qualifying festivals internationally. Amrou co-wrote the final episode of Apple’s BAFTA-nominated series Little America and an episode of The Watch for BBC America. They are currently writing on Emerald Fennell’s upcoming Showtime series. In 2019, Amrou published their memoir ‘Unicorn’, which won the Polari First Book Prize and the Somerset Maugham award, and is being adapted by Amrou with Universal Studios in the US and The Forge Entertainment in the UK.
Synopsis – 1970s, rural England. Richard and Juliette’s seemingly idyllic family life is thrown into turmoil when their son Ewan starts acting out of character, creating an insurmountable wedge between the once happy couple. At Starve Acre, their remote family home, archaeologist Richard buries himself in exploring a folkloric myth that the ancient oak tree on their land is imbued with phenomenal powers. While Juliette turns to the local community to find some kind of peace, Richard obsessively digs deeper. An unexpected discovery soon occupies the couple’s attention and dark and sinister forces, unwittingly allowed into the home, offer a disturbing possibility of reconnection between them.
Daniel Kokotajlo’s debut feature Apostasy about a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses was nominated for a string of awards including a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut Film in 2019 and six BIFA awards. It also won the BFI London Film Festival IWC Bursary for Outstanding First Feature in 2019. Apostasy was made on the micro-budget scheme IFeatures and was subsequently released by Curzon Artificial Eye where it went on to gross $500,000 at the UK box office and was bought by Amazon for the US. Daniel is developing a few original feature projects in the UK, including an original TV pilot titled Anointed about a romance between a Muslim boy and Jehovah’s Witness which was sold to Jane Featherstone/Sister Pictures. Daniel has been selected as both a Screen Star of Tomorrow and by BAFTA as a Breakthrough Brit. Starve Acre is his second feature