BFI London Film Festival 2020: 10 Oscar contenders to watch out for

This year has brought untold changes to the movie industry. One of the ways we can see is through the film festival circuit. For the first time in its history, the BFI London Film Festival is headed online, although rest assured, the line-up of movies is as dynamic and varied as ever.

The coronavirus pandemic has also necessitated a change to the Oscars: the 2021 ceremony has now moved from its traditional February slot to April. With Academy Awards buzz steadily starting to build, even in this topsy-turvy year, here are 10 LFF movies that we think will be contending for top prizes at the Oscars.


1. Ammonite

Oscar potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress

God's Own Country helmer Francis Lee returns with another story of same-sex romance, this time focusing on a 19th-century relationship between two very different women. Kate Winslet has been acclaimed for her performance as Mary Anning, a repressed paleontologist (and real-life figure) who is awakened by a passionate affair with Charlotte Murchison (Little Women's Saoirse Ronan). Shot amidst the wave-battered coastline of Lyme Regis, this is set to capitalise on the critical raves that Lee received for God's Own Country, emerging as a tender and insightful story of romance that flies in the face of social convention.

2. Soul

Oscar potential: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, Best Original Song

If your life could play out to a tune, what would it be? Even more intriguingly, where does your essence come from? The elusive power of both music and spirituality fuels Disney-Pixar's latest animation, featuring Jamie Foxx as music teacher Joe. When he dies in a sudden accident, Joe is transported to a mystical realm where souls are essentially 'chosen' for certain bodies. But can he get back home while reassessing the value of his life? Helmed by Inside Out filmmaker Pete Docter, with a score from Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and jazz artist Jon Batiste, this could prove to be another tear-jerking Pixar classic.

3. Nomadland

Oscar potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Cinematography

Word from the recent Toronto Film Festival tips Nomadland as this year's Oscar front-runner. Amazingly, star Frances McDormand is said to have topped her incendiary, award-winning performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But the register of this character is somewhat different, a ruminative, plaintive loner who embarks on a road trip across North America's heartland. Director Chloe Zhao criss-crosses narrative drama with an almost documentarian approach, similar to her 2018 hit The Rider, and critics have said the film does a magnificent job cutting to the core of the USA's troubled essence.

4. Shirley

Oscar potential: Best Actress

Writer Shirley Jackson was one of literature's great practitioners of the macabre and unsettling. She's perhaps best known for seminal haunted house story The Haunting of Hill House, which has spawned two movies (one a classic, the other terrible) and a hit Netflix show. But what of the woman behind the words? Mercurial star of The Handmaid's Tale, Elisabeth Moss, puts a human face on this literary icon, and has won acclaim for her contradictory, unpredictable performance. The film is reported to mirror the jagged, unsettling rhythms of Jackson's distinctive prose, an anti-biopic with a memorable star turn.

5. Another Round

Oscar potential: Best International Feature Film

Danish filmmaking pioneer Thomas Vinterburg returns with a story soaked in booze. Lots of booze. He reunites with actor Mads Mikkelsen, with whom he worked on the devastating The Hunt, to fashion a ribald yet truthful story of four friends who test the amount of alcohol they can consume. Imagine a drink-laden twist on French cult classic Le Grande Bouffe and you might get an idea of what to expect. In the mid-90s, Vinterburg and other filmmakers signed the Dogme 95 'manifesto', which subscribed to strict filmmaking rules such as natural light and only handheld cameras. It remains to be seen how raw and insightful Another Round will turn out to be.

6. Mangrove

Oscar potential: Best Director, Best Actress

Turner Prize-winning artist turned filmmaker Steve McQueen has emerged as an important chronicler of the black experience. His wrenching Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave is widely regarded as the definitive movie text on the American slave trade. And now McQueen turns his sights to his home city of London in the form of Mangrove, one of several features comprising his new 'Small Axe' anthology series. It focuses on the shocking true story of The Mangrove Nine, a group of activists whose clash with the Metropolitan Police and subsequent trial exposed shocking systemic racism. Black Panther's Letitia Wright is among the main players.

7. Relic

Oscar potential: Best Original Screenplay

What truly scares us? Is it the suggestion of the supernatural and uncanny? Or something rooted in the human condition? This acclaimed psychological horror fuses the two things, lacing a tragic story of dementia-laden confusion with sinister undercurrents of evil. Debut director Natalie Erika James manifests the ageing process, and one ordinary family's collapse, as something truly otherwordly and terrifying, emerging as another filmmaker to watch in the rapidly expanding indie horror market/

8. Mogul Mowgli

Oscar potential: Best Actor

Riz Ahmed straddles his music career and his skills as an actor in this emotive story of a rapper dealing with a debilitating illness. Ahmed fuses the anger of his recent, blistering short film The Long Goodbye with a story inspired by the struggles of the British-Pakistani community. Ahmed plays Zed, a talented and impassioned young MC at a crossroads in his life who is forced to re-assess the nature of his identity. Behind the camera, independent director Bassam Tariq brings energy and insight to this story of multi-cultural Britain.

9. Wolfwalkers

Oscar potential: Best Animated Feature

Irish animator Tomm Moore is responsible for the lusciously beautiful and engrossing films The Secret of Kells and The Song of the Sea. He now returns, in collaboration with Ross Stewart, for another ethereal and atmospheric story, this time centering around a mysterious Irish tribe who are reported to transform into wolves. Based on Moore's previous work, expect visuals that will stimulate the senses while the narrative engages us with mysterious Gaelic mythology. Sean Bean and Maria Doyle Kennedy are among the voice cast.

10. One Night In Miami

Oscar potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay

If Beale Street Could Talk and Watchmen star Regina King turns director for this critically acclaimed drama, a fictionalised take on true events. Screenwriter Kemp Powers re-imagines the gathering of Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke, as the group celebrate Clay's surprise title win over Sonny Liston in a Miami hotel room in February 1964. Critics say the film is buoyed by King's confident direction, a smooth Terrence Blanchard score and a talented cast of rising stars (including The O.A.'s Kingsley Ben-Adir, The Invisible Man's Aldis Hodge and Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr.).

Which of these movies will triumph at the 2021 Oscars ceremony? Tweet us your thoughts @Cineworld.