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BFI London Film Festival: our picks from the 2015 programme

Female stories take centre stage at the UK's premier film festival

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BFI London Film Festival: our picks from the 2015 programme

Suffragette with Carey Mulligan

As ever delivering a plethora of festival circuit favourites, the 59th BFI London Film Festival programme was announced this morning to assembled press and industry, at the home of glamorous premieres, the Odeon Leicester Square. Declaring 2015 'the year of the strong woman,' the BFI's own formidable females – Chief Executive Amanda Nevill and Festival Director Clare Stewart – were on hand to present highlights from the line-up, discuss the direction and context of the festival, and to offer thanks to supporters.

Already announced were its stately bookends, the European premieres of Suffragette ('made by British women, about British women') and Danny Boyle's biopic Steve Jobs (his third LFF closer), which screen on the 7 and 18 October respectively. Another story of courageous women swimming against the tide of the time, Todd Hayne's exquisite Carol (starring this year's BFI Fellowship recipient Cate Blanchett), is the American Express Gala.

The Headline Galas announced today are Black Mass, featuring Johnny Depp as Irish gangster Jimmy 'Whitey' Bulger; Ben Wheatley's feverishly anticipated JG Ballard adaptation High-Rise, with Tom Hiddleston and Luke Evans; and Trumbo, which casts Bryan Cranston as blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Saoirse Ronan has a heartbreaking choice to make in Brooklyn, while Maggie Smith is, as Stewart puts it, 'not giving a shit about the neighbours' in The Lady in the Van.

Meanwhile, the Strand Galas include I Am Love director Luca Guadagnino and star Tilda Swinton reteaming for La Piscine remake A Bigger Splash, UK audiences finally get a chance to witness the wonderfully weird The Lobster, a description that also fits Guy Maddin's The Forbidden Room, Hou Hsiao-Hsien returns with The Assassin, there's a special presentation of documentary He Named Me Malala, and Ben Foster simply is Lance Armstrong in The Program from Stephen Frears.

The LFF is a festival famed for its diversity and the Official and First Feature Competitions certainly offer that: Idris Elba stars in Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation, Cannes Grand Prix-winning Holocaust drama Son of Saul and Hong Kong musical Office make their UK debuts, as do Lenny Abrahamson's take on Emma Donoghue's bestseller Room and Sundance pick The Witch. Elsewhere in the programme (which, as in recent years, is divided into strands including Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Cult, Journey and Family) you'll find gems from across the world like Dheepan, Nasty Baby, Taxi Tehran and Youth.

There's a new short film award and Geena Davis will be in attendance to launch a global symposium on gender in the media. Events include Screen Talks from casting director Laura Rosenthal, filmmakers Jia Zhangke and Walter Salles, and Todd Haynes, who will be discussing sexuality and identity. And, as part of the LFF Connects programme, Christopher Nolan and Tacita Dean will be exploring the future of film.

So, after months of secrecy, the full programme is upon us – all 238 features and 182 shorts – with the rush for tickets to follow soon. Quite understandably, Stewart comments, 'It feels really good letting it out.'

The 59th BFI London Film Festival runs from 7 – 18 Oct 2015. Tickets go on sale on 17 Sep.

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