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BFI London Fest American Express Gala will be EMPIRE OF LIGHT by Sam Mendes


EMPIRE OF LIGHT Written & Directed by Sam Mendes

Filmmaker Sam Mendes to attend with key cast including Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tanya Moodie, Tom Brooke and Crystal Clarke, with more to be confirmed


The 66th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express is delighted to announce that this year’s American Express Gala will be EMPIRE OF LIGHT, written, produced and directed by Oscar® and BAFTA winning filmmaker Sam Mendes. The film will receive its European Premiere on Wednesday 12th October at the Southbank Centre in the Royal Festival Hall, with director Sam Mendes in attendance as well as Producer Pippa Harris and key cast including Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tanya Moodie, Tom Brooke and Crystal Clarke.

Set in an English seaside town in the early 1980s, EMPIRE OF LIGHT is a powerful and poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema from Academy Award® winning director Sam Mendes. EMPIRE OF LIGHT, which marks Mendes’ first solo credit as screenwriter, features a stellar cast led by Academy Award winner and BFI Fellow Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Lost Daughter), BAFTA winner Micheal Ward (Blue Story, Top Boy) and Academy Award winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man). It also reunites Mendes with Academy Award winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (1917, Skyfall).


The film is produced by Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris’ Neal Street Productions, in partnership with Searchlight Pictures. The film will release theatrically in the US on 9th December and in the UK on 13th January.


Sam Mendes, Writer/Director/Producer of EMPIRE OF LIGHT, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be included in this year’s BFI London Film Festival as the AMEX Gala screening. Empire of Light is a very personal movie for me, and I can’t wait to show it in my home town”.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director, said: "When I read that Sam Mendes' next project was centred around a cinema, I was so excited about the possibility of being able to present it in the BFI London Film Festival. Mendes is a masterful storyteller and here vividly captures a sense of the South coast of England, in the 1980s. Empire of Light explores the importance of community, the power of storytelling and of the movies, specifically the thrill of watching a film in a dark cinema, and the tactile pleasures of celluloid. And these are themes so close to our hearts at the BFI. The entire ensemble cast is truly exceptional, with Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward offering stunning central performances. We are so looking forward to presenting the European Premiere of Empire of Light as the American Express Gala at the 66th BFI London Film Festival".

Sam Mendes is one of the world’s most acclaimed film and theatre directors, achieving huge critical and commercial success across his 30-year career. He has directed and produced multi-award-winning productions for stage and screen, including the BAFTA and Oscar-winning Skyfall, the Tony Award-winning The Lehman Trilogy and most recently the BAFTA and Oscar-winning box office hit 1917, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay. The LFF is delighted to welcome Mendes back to the BFI London Film Festival, after he first attended in 1999 with his directorial debut, American Beauty.

The BFI London Film Festival has previously announced that the Opening Night film will be the World Premiere of ROALD DAHL’S MATILDA THE MUSICAL starring Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, Sindhu Vee and introducing Alisha Weir as Matilda. The Closing Night film will be Rian Johnson’s GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick and Madelyn Cline with Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista.


The 66th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express takes place from Wednesday 5th October – Sunday 16th October, 2022. The BFI LFF Programme Launch will take place on Thursday 1st September, 2022.

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