Cheltenham International Film Festival 2019

Cheltenham Film Society is supporting the Cheltenham International Film Festival 2019, which will take place between 27 May and 1 June. It offers a fabulous selection of new and newish films from across the world.

The event is directed by CFS member Leslie Sheldon and includes a competition for emerging filmmakers, screenings of early work by some well-known directors, and a focus – this year – on Poland, a country with a great tradition of cinema. In addition, there will be masterclasses, panel discussions, talks, receptions, and a closing night awards dinner. Events will be held across Cheltenham, including at Cineworld, the Parabola Arts Centre, Princess Hall of Cheltenham Ladies College, the Wilson Gallery, Chapel Arts and the Frog & Fiddle.  The event’s website is at  A downloadable copy of the festival programme is available here.


The competition includes sections for feature films and documentaries and will be judged by a panel of industry experts including Paul Ashton, head of film at Creative England, the legendary comedy writer Laurence Marks of “Marks & Gran” fame, producer/director Stephen Cookson, talent agent Pippa Markham, Phil Hunt of Bankside Films and actress Emma Samms.

The opening event of the Festival will be the UK premiere of Sometimes Always Never, directed by Carl Hunter and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It stars Bill Nighy, Sam Riley and Jenny Agutter and will be screened at Cineworld on the evening of 27 May. This will be followed by an opening night reception at The Botanist.

On 30 May, there will be a screening of Mary Queen of Scots in the magnificent Princess Hall at Cheltenham Ladies College. The film’s director, Josie Rourke, will take questions from the audience. The polymathic Steven Berkoff will show his film Shakespeare’s Heroes and Villains at Chapel Arts on 31 May and lead a discussion afterwards.

The tribute to Mike Leigh, on 29 May at the Parabola Arts Centre, includes screenings of two much-loved early works, the BBC comedy Nuts In May and the gritty drama Bleak Moments, both selected by the director. He will be present for a question and answer session after the films.

There will also be a Country Focus. This year, the spotlight is on Poland. Jan Komasa, director of the 2011 classic Suicide Room, will introduce a showing of his film on 30 May at the Parabola Arts Centre. He will be joined by other Polish directors and craftspeople for films including A Coach’s DaughterWerewolf, Mug and Another Day of Life

Meanwhile, the Frog & Fiddle in the lower High Street will play host to youth-orientated films such as MandyRingSorry To Bother You and Blindspotting. And there will be two music-related films at the Wilson Museum and Gallery on 31 May: It Must Schwing! – The Blue Note Story and Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan RecordsThe notable French ballet film Polina, from 2016, is also being shown at the Wilson, on 1 June.

Insights and Masterclasses

A programme of sessions for aspiring filmmakers will cover such topics as finance, distribution, special effects, scoring and makeup. The leading Polish cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski Jr, son and grandson of great lighting cameramen, will lead a session on the art of cinematography on 28 May at Chapel Arts, alongside talks on makeup, costume and film scoring. There will be talks on the business aspects of filmmaking on 30 May, either at The Queens Hotel or the Council Room, Cheltenham Ladies College.

Closing event

The festival will end with a Closing Night party and awards ceremony at The Queen’s Hotel on June 1. Details of that will be on the festival website.

Get involved

The organisers of the CIFF are hoping to recruit interns and volunteers to help with organising and running the event. They are also eager to speak to prospective sponsors and donors. Please contact CIFF via its website:

Membership and discounts

Festival memberships are available that give a 20 per cent discount on all the films (except the opening feature). They cost £50 as standard, £40 for over-60s and £30 for under-25s. CFS members are now entitled to a 50 per cent discount on the films in the Women in Film section. Apply to us for a membership code to use on the online booking office or when booking via the Cheltenham Playhouse: