Cannes 2014: BBC leads with comedy as Mrs Brown's Boys take on the big screen

The BBC hopes to have the Croisette in stitches when it unleashes a wave of comedy films at Cannes designed to repeat the success of last year’s Alan Partridge movie.

Backed by Tony Hall, the BBC's director general, BBC Films is investing in a slate of films which capitalise on international demand for productions which demonstrate the best of British wit.

International distributors will be invited to a special screening at next week’s Cannes Film Festival of What We Did On Our Holiday, an ambitious film written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, the team behind the hit BBC1 family comedy Outnumbered.

Starring David Tennant and Rosamund Pike as a divorcing couple, the film includes improvised dialogue from the young actors who play the couple’s children - Harriet Turnbull, Bobby Smalldridge and Emilia Jones – emulating a technique successfully employed in Outnumbered.

Pride, a comedy-drama inspired by a true story set in the summer of 1984 about a group of gay and lesbian activists who decide to raise money to support the families of the striking miners, will be the closing-night film in the directors' fortnight section.

Directed by the Tony Award-winning theatre director Matthew Warchus (Matilda: The Musical) and featuring a large ensemble cast led by Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, the film, which details the initial reluctance of a traditional Welsh mining community to embrace support from the gay community, is being spoken of as a successor to Billy Elliott.

BBC Films hopes to drum up interest in Cannes for Bill, the story of hopeless lute-player William Shakespeare’s “lost years”, the first big-screen production from the Horrible Histories team, which will open in February 2015.

Writer Laurence Rickard said: “It’s an ‘origins’ film – How Bill Shakespeare became William. When we meet Bill he’s feckless and doesn’t know what direction to take in life. We were also able to weave in lines of dialogue from the plays across the story.”

Tony Hall, attending a pre-Cannes screening of the BBC offerings, backed the focus on comedy. “Comedy is very important to the BBC,” he told The Independent. “It helps communicate who we are as Britons to the wider world and at the BBC we’re very good at it. I’m excited by what I’ve seen.”

BBC Film’s most controversial comedy was not entered at Cannes. A spin-off from the hugely popular sitcom starring Brendan O'Carroll, Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie will be released on 27 June.

The film follows the chaos that ensues when market-trader Agnes Brown and her family embark on a campaign to save her market stall from an evil developer, aided by a motley troop of blind trainee Ninjas.

Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie may not be one for the critics,” acknowledged Christine Langhan, head of BBC Films. “But it’s a very warm and entertaining film. Millions of people love the series and it’s an important part of the BBC family so we’ve worked very hard with the team to make the transition to the big screen.”

She added: “Comedy is a very potent means of getting a message across. Pride is a funny and moving take on a period of great social strife in Britain. I want BBC Films to show that British stories with a unique British voice can succeed at the box office.”

Tony Hall said the £11 million invested in BBC Films last year attracted £65 million of co-production revenues and brought to screen a range of films which would otherwise never have been made. Last year BBC Films backed Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which topped the UK box office and Steve Coogan’s Oscar-nominated drama Philomena.

BBC Films also announced that the team behind The History Boys will reunite to bring Alan Bennett’s play The Lady In The Van to the screen. Maggie Jones will star as the vagrant who parked her dormobile in the writer’s drive, staying for 15 years, with Nicholas Hytner directing the film.

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh go head to head for the coveted Palme d’Or as the two British representatives in the Cannes festival competition.

Loach presents Jimmy’s Hall, a Film4-backed period drama about an Irish political activist who builds a rural dancehall. Leigh’s Mr Turner portrays the life of celebrated landscape painter JMW Taylor.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone