The Manchester Film Festival announced the official selection for the 5th edition of the festival this evening in the grand surroundings of the boutique screening room at the King Street Townhouse hotel.

Over 150 films in a line-up made up of narrative and documentary features, narrative and documentary shorts, experimental films, music videos, animations and VR will screen at the Odeon in Manchester’s historic Great Northern Warehouse over the week 2nd-10th March.

For the first time the festival will take place over a week, testament to the events growth over its short history and the strength of films submitted.

After five years the festival has developed a reputation amongst the independent filmmaking community as a warm, welcoming festival with a personal touch and party vibes. This year will be no different, with events taking place across the week and with many filmmakers from around the world set to attend they will be hosted by City Suites during their stay.

Highlights include the world premiere of the James Purefoy starring Limbo (United States), about a murderer who find himself on trial in hell. and world premiere of British film The Runaways, which stars The Full Monty’s Mark Addy and up and comer Molly Windsor in the story of three young siblings travelling across the country trying to avoid social services.
World premiere of Far from the Apple Tree (United Kingdom), a film that sees Netflix’s The Innocents star Sorcha Groundsell as a struggling artist who lands her dream job working for a renowned and sinister visual artist.

UK Premieres include The Princess of the Row (United States), which tells the story of a young girl who has escaped the foster care system to live on L. A’s infamous skid row. The film stars Hollywood legend Martin Sheen in a late career highlight.

The Abbie Cornish starring Paris Song (Kazakhstan, Latvia, United States), a true story about a Kazakh singer who befriends George Gershwin in 1925 Paris, will also have its UK premiere. As will Rust Creek (United States), which stars Hermione Corfield in a survival thriller.

Horror film Isabelle (United States) which sees Hollywood star Adam Brody haunted by an evil presence will have its Manchester premiere and the Radha Mitchell starring drama, Celeste (Australia) will also play Manchester for the first time.

Documentary feature highlights include UK Premiere of Unravelling Athena, which chronicles the journey women’s tennis champions must take from small child to number one in the world. With contributions from tennis legends Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.

Sports fans have further reason to be happy with the International Premiere of Cradle of Champions, 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 tournament.

Also having its UK premiere is Public Figure (United States), with contributions from Denzel Washington, an exploration of our society’s increasing obsession with social media. The film follows the lives of established Instagram influencers around the globe as they question their addiction to the medium.

Other feature documentary highlights include Leonard Bernstein – A Genius Divided having its UK premiere, Ballad of a Righteous Merchant, a study of Werner Hertzog’s filmmaking process featuring Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe and Chloe Sevigny and the European premiere of The Pretender, which tells the fly on the wall story of a professional Rocky impersonator whose obsession with Sylvester Stallone has taken over his life.

With 14 short film sessions programmed there is no shortage of premiering films in competition including the legendary Joan Collins giving an astounding performance in Gerry, about an old woman who uncovers a long-buried secret, Melissa Leo starring in The View From up Here, Chris Messina in Too Long at the fair and Game of Thrones favourite Aiden Gillen in comedy I Didn’t… I Wasn’t… I Amn’t .

World Premiere of The Sea, with Anna Friel and Russel Tovey and How a Kite Flies, featuring the voice of Sir Ian McKellen as an alcoholic kite will screen as part of North West Shorts, a selection that celebrates the best of North West filmmaking talent.

Documentary shorts include the powerful Lifeboat, which documents the crisis of refugees desperate enough to risk their lives in rubber boats leaving Libya in the middle of the night, The Firefighter, which sees Ricky Nuttall performing his poem about what he experienced the night he went into Grenfell tower 3 times and There’s a Hell of a Racket Coming from your house Mrs Wood an in depth conversation with The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood about his contemporary art.

Still to be announced are the opening and closing night gala screenings which will bring special premier screenings to Manchester audiences for the first time.

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.”


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