'A man searches tirelessly for his missing son who he has not seen in years. When a body is located, the entire family's life is turned upside-down and they must all learn how to reconnect with one another'.

The Cheltenham International Film Festival is proud to launch the festival with a special preview of Sometimes Always Never, starring Bill Nighy and directed by first-time feature film director, Carl Hunter.  Carl will be attending the preview to introduce his film and to take audience Questions & Answers after the screening.  He will then join us at the opening night party at The Botanist.

Director Carl Hunter in attendance

 Festival Highlight: Tribute to Mike Leigh

Every year, the Festival will screen the earliest films of celebrated directors in tribute to their contribution to the legacy of great cinema.  In 2019, we recognised Mike Leigh, screening two of his early films, Bleak Moments and Nuts in May, selected by the director, himself.

Mike Leigh is one of Britain’s most celebrated directors and for fifty years has made many classic films, starting with Bleak Moments, Nuts in May and Abigail’s Party, moving on to Secrets & Lies which won Palme d’Or, Naked which won Best Director at Cannes, Vera Drake which won the Golden Lion, Mr Turner and many, many more.

Mike came to Cheltenham to introduce both of his films and to take audience Questions and Answers after each screening.  It should also be noted that Mike sat through both films, to share the moment with the audience which was well appreciated.

 Festival Highlight: Shakespeare's Heroes & Villains with Steven Berkoff Q&A 

The festival was proud to welcome actor, director, writer and legendary Enfant Terrible Steven Berkoff to the Cheltenham Film Festival.

The festival premiered the first ever screening of Shakespeare's Heroes & Villains - a journey through Shakspeare's most notorious villains with Steven Berkoff as your informed and entertaining tour guide! From the 'genius' villain, Richard |||, through to 'wannabe' villain, Macbeth and 'student villain, Hamlet, Berkoff portrays each. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the man himself. Steven has acted in films as diverse as A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Passenger, Octopussy, Beverly Hills Cop, Rambo, Under The Cherry Moon, Absolute Beginners and The Krays and directed and co-starred with Joan Collins in the film version of Decadence.

 Festival Highlight: Mary Queen of Scots with Josie Rourke followed by a Q&A

The festival was extremely excited to welcome English theatre and film director Josie Rourke to the Cheltenham Film Festival.

The festival screened Josie's very much talked about first film 'Mary Queen of Scots' starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. The film highlights the complex relationship between Elizabeth (Margot) and her cousin Mary (Saoirse) who was a danger to Elizabeth's hold to the English throne. The two woman were locked in a dynastic rivalry that could only end badly. 

After the screening, Josie took audience Questions & Answers from the audience.

Before moving into film, Josie Rourke was a celebrated theatre director and Artistic Director of the prestigious Donmar Warehouse.


Jan Komas, Polish Film Director, Screenwriter and Producer

In 2019, the Cheltenham International Film Festival paid tribute to Polish cinema, screening five Polish films.  We were delighted to welcomed Polish filmmakers to Cheltenham, including the celebrated director, Jan Komasa, whose first film, Suicide Room is considered a class. More recently, Komasa’s latest film, Corpus Christi (2019) won raves in Venice and Toronto International Film and is Poland’s entry for the Oscar’s in 2020 as Best Foreign Language Film.


Lukasz Grzegorzek, Polish Film Director and Writer


As part of The Cheltenham International Film Festival country focus on Polish cinema, the festival Polish film director, screenwriter and producer, Jan Komasa joined the festival and screened one his award-winning films 'A coach's Daughter'. Lukasz then joined us for an audience Q&A where he spoke about the film.


Director: Nadina Labaki

After running away from his negligent parents, committing a violent crime and being sentenced to five years in jail, a hardened, streetwise 12-year-old Lebanese boy sues his parents in protest of the life they have given him.

The Festival honoured filmmakers for Best Feature Narrative, Best Feature Documentary, Best Short Narrative, Best Short Documentary and Best Experimental Film.  Winners included students of film for Best Short Documentary and Best Experimental.

Take a look at what was on! Click to download the full Cheltenham International Film Festival 2019 programme