One Life, starring both Anthony Hopkins and Johnny Flynn as a British humanitarian who helped rescue children from the clutches of the Nazis, will be among the main gala screenings at this year’s BFI London Film Festival.
The film, the feature directorial debut of James Hawes (a noted British TV director who has helmed episodes of Black Mirror, Doctor Who and Slow Horses) and also starring Lena Olin, Romola Garai, Alex Sharp, Marthe Keller, Jonathan Pryce and Helena Bonham Carter, will get its European premiere on Oct 12., after bowing in Toronto in September. See-Saw Films, the multi-Oscar winning banner behind The Power of the Dog and The King’s Speech, produced the feature, which they developed alongside BBC Film.
One Life tells the true story of Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, a young London broker (played by Flynn), who, in the months leading up to WWII, rescued 669 children from the Nazis. Nicky visited Prague in December 1938 and found families who had fled the rise of the Nazis in Germany and Austria, living in desperate conditions with little or no shelter and food, and under threat of Nazi invasion. He immediately realised it was a race against time. How many children could he and the team rescue before the borders closed?
Fifty years later, it’s 1988 and Winton (now played by Hopkins) lives haunted by the fate of the children he wasn’t able to bring to safety in England; always blaming himself for not doing more. It’s not until a live BBC television show, That’s Life, surprises him by introducing him to some surviving children – now adults – that he finally begins to come to terms with the guilt and grief he had carried for five decades.
The subsequent TV clip from That’s Life of Winton — who was dubbed the “British Schindler” — meeting some of those he helped save later went viral on social media, sparking renewed interest in his achievements. Winton passed away in 2015 at the age of 106.
“It is a huge honour to have One Life be a gala presentation. This film pretty much begins and ends in London and says so much about the people of this city, its heart and its history. So it feels right that we have our UK launch at the BFI London Film Festival,” said Hawes.
“It has been a privilege to tell Nicholas Winton’s story and portray his generosity of spirit. It means so much to us to be able to share James Hawes’s One Life at this year’s festival, with an audience that is so passionate about the power of film, coming together to celebrate the captivating stories that connect us all,” said See-Saw Films heads Iain Canning and Emile Sherman.
The 2023 London Film Festival, which runs Oct. 4-15., will open with Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, with the rest of the lineup due to be announced on Aug. 31. One Life is set for release in the U.K. by Warner Bros Pictures on Jan. 5, 2024.