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Great Debuts

First impressions count. These features launched some of cinema's highest achievers, showing the themes and techniques to which many would return.

Whether on land, at sea or on the road, these debuts show what happens when an instinct for storytelling meets the medium in which it will blossom.

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HiveHive

Drama202084 minsDirector: Blerta Basholli

Director Blerta Basholli’s feature debut is a moving story of resilience and hope, and the first film in Sundance history to win all three main awards.

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Daughters of the DustDaughters of the Dust

Drama1991112 minsDirector: Julie Dash

Julie Dash’s groundbreaking Daughters of the Dust remains urgent and poetic and continues to resonate, inspiring Beyoncé’s iconic visual album Lemonade.

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Bronco's HouseBronco's House

Drama201544 minsDirector: Mark Jenkin

A young man strives to provide a home for his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn child, in Mark Jenkin's mid-length precursor to Bait.

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The Killing of Two LoversThe Killing of Two Lovers

Drama202185 minsDirector: Robert Machoian

Robert Machoian’s terse, Utah-set drama explores the anguish of a couple whose relationship has disintegrated, but with only one of them wanting out.

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All My Friends Hate MeAll My Friends Hate Me

Comedy202194 minsDirector: Andrew Gaynord

A deliciously dark comedy about social paranoia that will have you joyfully squirming in your seat.

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I Am Not a WitchI Am Not a Witch

Drama201793 minsDirector: Rungano Nyoni

Welsh-raised, Zambian-born Rungano Nyoni delivers a dazzling debut with this darkly satirical fairy tale about a little girl accused of being a witch.

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TidesTides

Drama2017100 minsDirector: Tupaq Felber

Four thirtysomethings find some much-needed time to reconnect in this beautifully observed and subtly insightful debut.

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The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the SeaThe Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Drama1976105 minsDirector: Lewis John Carlino

When an English widow, Anne (Sarah Miles, Ryan’s Daughter) falls in love with a dashing American sailor (singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson), her jealous teenage son goes to horrific lengths to restore the status quo.

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Catch the Fair OneCatch the Fair One

Thriller202186 minsDirector: Josef Kubota Wladyka

Haunted by the disappearance of her younger sister two years prior, a former champion boxer leaves no stone unturned in her brutal search for answers.

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Top of the HeapTop of the Heap

Drama197290 minsDirector: Christopher St. John

A Black cop struggles with his inner and outer demons in Christopher St John’s experimental debut feature.

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UnrelatedUnrelated

Drama200896 minsDirector: Joanna Hogg

On a Tuscan break a fortysomething woman finds herself drawn to the company of a group of partying teens, including a young Tom Hiddleston (in one of his earliest roles).

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After LoveAfter Love

Drama202090 minsDirector: Aleem Khan

In this knockout feature debut from Aleem Khan, Bafta-winner Joanna Scanlan is the woman who discovers her late husband’s secrets.

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CeliaCelia

Drama1989108 minsDirector: Ann Turner

Set in mid-1950s Australia, with the fear of communism in the air and rabbit plagues overrunning the countryside, Ann Turner’s debut film depicts a long, hot summer seen through the eyes and wild imagination of a young girl.

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Young Soul RebelsYoung Soul Rebels

Drama1991105 minsDirector: Isaac Julien

The Queen's Silver Jubilee beats to the sounds of Funkadelic, Sylvester and the O'Jays in Isaac Julien’s feature debut.

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Second ComingSecond Coming

Drama2014105 minsDirector: debbie tucker green

What if an immaculate conception took place in a South London household? Idris Elba stars in a subtle, thought-provoking and original family drama.

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CrisisCrisis

Drama194593 minsDirector: Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman’s intriguing directorial debut, in which a young woman is torn between the traditional rural life of her family and the bright lights of the big city.

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AvaAva

Drama2017103 minsDirector: Sadaf Foroughi

Sadaf Foroughi's gripping debut about a young girl's coming-of-age in a strict, traditional society.

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Mysterious Object at NoonMysterious Object at Noon

Drama200089 minsDirector: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Thai filmmaker and Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul's hallucinatory debut feature is an extraordinary combination of experimental documentary and fiction.

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AmuletAmulet

Horror202099 minsDirector: Romola Garai

Old sins refuse to be forgotten in Romola Garai’s gothic horror and hauntingly atmospheric debut feature.

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Talking about TreesTalking about Trees

Documentary201994 minsDirector: Suhaib Gasmelbari

Beautifully shot documentary about four members of the 'Sudanese Film Club' who decide to revive an old cinema.

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Paris Nous AppartientParis Nous Appartient

Drama1961142 minsDirector: Jacques Rivette

Remarkable first feature from cinematic visionary Jacques Rivette, brilliantly capturing the mood of paranoia and uncertainty of the Cold War period.

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The TribeThe Tribe

Drama2014132 minsDirector: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy

A new arrival at a school for young deaf people is drawn into a nightmarish world of crime and brutality, in this audacious and acclaimed modern classic told in unsubtitled sign.

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The ArborThe Arbor

Biopic201090 minsDirector: Clio Barnard

Clio Barnard's film about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar mixes reconstruction, interviews (performed by actors) and scenes from the plays.

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John and the HoleJohn and the Hole

Drama2021103 minsDirector: Pascual Sisto

A troubled teenager holds his family captive in this gripping psychological thriller starring Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle as his parents.

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The WoundThe Wound

Drama201788 minsDirector: John Trengove

A traditional rite of passage ritual forms the backdrop for this tough and complex tale of closeted sexuality in South Africa.

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Mogul MowgliMogul Mowgli

Drama202089 minsDirector: Bassam Tariq

Bassam Tariq’s visceral directorial debut, co-written with Riz Ahmed, finds a British-Pakistani rapper’s life spiralling out of control when, on the cusp of success, he succumbs to a debilitating illness.

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Identifying Features [Sin señas particulares]Identifying Features [Sin señas particulares]

Drama202099 minsDirector: Fernanda Valadez

This compelling first feature finds a mother embarking on an Odyssey-like search for her missing son across a border terrain where law and order has effectively broken down.

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JumboJumbo

Drama202094 minsDirector: Zoé Wittock

Love takes a dizzying turn in this disarmingly enchanting psychosexual tale of a young woman who falls in love with a fairground ride.

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AvaAva

Drama2017103 minsDirector: Sadaf Foroughi

Sadaf Foroughi's gripping debut about a young girl's coming-of-age in a strict, traditional society.

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PressurePressure

Drama1978121 minsDirector: Horace Ové

Hailed as Britain's first black feature film, Pressure is a hard-hitting, honest document of the plight of disenchanted black youths in 1970s London.

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County LinesCounty Lines

Drama201990 minsDirector: Henry Blake

Blistering thriller of a teen groomed to work for a brutal, organised drugs network.

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I'm British But...I'm British But...

Documentary198929 minsDirector: Gurinder Chadha

Britain beats to the sound of Bhangra and Bangla in Gurinder Chadha's debut film.

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AniaraAniara

Science Fiction2018106 minsDirector: Pella Kågerman

The passengers on an interstellar space-liner are thrown into turmoil when their mission goes off course, in this compassionate and thought-provoking sci-fi drama.

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House [Hausu]House [Hausu]

Horror197788 minsDirector: Nobuhiko Obayashi

An unforgettable mixture of bubblegum teen melodrama and grisly phantasmagoria, Obayashi’s deranged fairy tale House is one of Japanese cinema’s wildest supernatural ventures and a truly startling debut feature.

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Summer 1993Summer 1993

Drama201798 minsDirector: Carla Simón

An outstanding debut feature charting the emotional journey of a six-year old girl in the aftermath of her mother’s death in early 1990s Spain.

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DaphneDaphne

Drama201687 minsDirector: Peter Mackie Burns

Emily Beecham stars in a powerful character study about a 31-year-old chef who's drifting through her London life, until she witnesses a shocking event…

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Red RoadRed Road

Thriller2006110 minsDirector: Andrea Arnold

Andrea Arnold’s highly acclaimed film, winner of top prizes at Cannes and the BFI London Film Festival, is a haunting drama about a woman confronting past demons.

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LuckyLucky

Drama201688 minsDirector: John Carroll Lynch

Harry Dean Stanton gives the performance of a lifetime as an irascible nonagenarian maverick grappling with his mortality.

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Gone Too Far!Gone Too Far!

Comedy201388 minsDirector: Destiny Ekaragha

Riotous urban comedy adapted from the hit Royal Court play, about a Peckham teen affronted by the arrival of his long-lost Nigerian sibling.

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The FallsThe Falls

Animation & Artists Moving Image1980195 minsDirector: Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway's epic first feature, constructed as an excerpt from an imagined, filmic directory listing everyone affected by VUE – the Violent Unknown Event

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Sanshiro SugataSanshiro Sugata

Crime194379 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s assured debut film about a young man’s spiritual journey through the study and practice of judo.

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The Watermelon WomanThe Watermelon Woman

Comedy199785 minsDirector: Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye's smart and funny romance - thought to be the first feature directed by a black lesbian - remains a breath of fresh air decades on.

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La HaineLa Haine

Drama199598 minsDirector: Mathieu Kassovitz

Mathieu Kassovitz’s landmark mid-90s drama throws a cinematic Molotov cocktail at structural racism, police brutality and media manipulation.

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Stud LifeStud Life

Drama201287 minsDirector: Campbell X

Campbell X's debut feature is a sexy, young and cool gay romance taking a unique look at a slice of British urban life.

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SebastianeSebastiane

Historical drama197685 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

A distinctly bold and sensual reclaiming of gay history, Jarman here tells the sexually intense story of the 4th-century martyr.

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Lift to the ScaffoldLift to the Scaffold

Crime195891 minsDirector: Louis Malle

Julien Tavernier plans the perfect murder of his boss. Having emerged from the scene of the crime, he returns to retrieve a vital piece of evidence but finds himself trapped in a lift, increasingly desperate to escape before the police arrive.

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PrevengePrevenge

Comedy201688 minsDirector: Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe directs and stars in this riotous tale of a pregnant serial killer, hellbent on revenge.

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Distant Voices, Still LivesDistant Voices, Still Lives

Biopic198884 minsDirector: Terence Davies

Terence Davies' debut feature is a remarkable evocation of working-class family life in the 40s and 50s and a visionary exploration of memory.

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Under the SkinUnder the Skin

Melodrama199783 minsDirector: Carine Adler

Carine Adler’s sexy and dark debut, starring Samantha Morton in her first major feature film role.

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My Brother the DevilMy Brother the Devil

Drama2012107 minsDirector: Sally El Hosaini

Sally El Hosaini's feature debut tells of the love and disenchantment of two British-Egyptian brothers. Gangs, drugs and sexuality come between them

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Radio OnRadio On

Road movie1979100 minsDirector: Chris Petit

Chris Petit's cult classic is one of the most striking feature debuts in British cinema – a haunting blend of edgy mystery story and existential road movie.

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End of the CenturyEnd of the Century

Romance201984 minsDirector: Lucio Castro

A chance encounter reconnects two men in this heart-breaking lament on love, lust and missed opportunities.

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L'AtalanteL'Atalante

Drama193489 minsDirector: Jean Vigo

Newlyweds begin their life together on a working barge in this luminous romance, the only full-length feature film by director Jean Vigo.

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Spanking the MonkeySpanking the Monkey

Comedy199495 minsDirector: David O. Russell

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) made his feature debut in 1994 with this biting black comedy, which caused a stir with its incestuous subplot and portrayal of adolescent restlessness.

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Appropriate BehaviourAppropriate Behaviour

Comedy201586 minsDirector: Desiree Akhavan

Desiree Akhavan directs and stars in this witty, razor-sharp and fearless comedy following the sexual misadventures of a bisexual Brooklynite.

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The ChambermaidThe Chambermaid

Drama2018102 minsDirector: Lila Avilés

Lila Avilés provides an engaging, behind-closed-doors look at the working environment of a chambermaid in one of Mexico City’s most luxurious hotels.

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New Town UtopiaNew Town Utopia

Documentary201781 minsDirector: Christopher Ian Smith

From Utopian dreams to concrete realities; charting the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.

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Lynn + LucyLynn + Lucy

Drama201988 minsDirector: Fyzal Boulifa

A lifelong friendship is tested by tragedy in this atmospheric and intense first feature from acclaimed British shorts director Fyzal Boulifa.

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BallastBallast

Drama200796 minsDirector: Lance Hammer

Three haunted souls are thrust into co-existence in this searing debut work from Lance Hammer, a double prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival.

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VivaViva

Sex comedy2008116 minsDirector: Anna Biller

Anna Biller's outrageous sexploitation satire follows bored housewife Barbi as she searches for adventure in predatory 1970s Los Angeles.

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Last and First MenLast and First Men

Animation & Artists Moving Image202070 minsDirector: Jóhann Jóhannsson

Two billion years ahead of us, a future race of humans finds itself on the verge of extinction. Tilda Swinton narrates this visually stunning lament for humanity by acclaimed composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Arrival).

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ChocolatChocolat

Drama1988100 minsDirector: Claire Denis

Claire Denis' fully formed debut offers a child’s-eye-view of racial and sexual tension that bubbles with unspoken desires.

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The Harder They ComeThe Harder They Come

Drama1972103 minsDirector: Perry Henzell

The cult classic, acknowledged as the catalyst for the popularisation of reggae in the US, sees Jimmy Cliff traversing the underbelly of Jamaican shanty-town life.

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GallivantGallivant

Animation & Artists Moving Image1996100 minsDirector: Andrew Kötting

Andrew Kötting takes a terrific, twisting coastal tour of the UK with his family.

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Violent CopViolent Cop

Crime1989103 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

In his brutal directorial debut, ‘Beat' Takeshi Kitano plays a renegade cop who frequently resorts to violence and unethical methods to get results.

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Room 237Room 237

Documentary2012103 minsDirector: Rodney Ascher

Rodney Ascher's enigmatic essay film weaves together the contrasting theories of five different narrators who believe Stanley Kubrick deliberately buried hidden messages in his 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.

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Frozen RiverFrozen River

Crime200893 minsDirector: Courtney Hunt

Nominated for two Oscars (Best Actress – Melissa Leo - and Best Original Screenplay) Frozen River is a riveting thriller that raises questions about the borders we construct, between countries, communities and each other.

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HelenHelen

Thriller200875 minsDirector: Christine Molloy

An inventive and acclaimed British feature following the transformation of a teenager who agrees to portray her missing college friend in a highly detailed crime reconstruction.

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Something DifferentSomething Different

Drama196381 minsDirector: Věra Chytilová

Věra Chytilová's first feature is an important work of women's cinema, which contrasts the parallel stories of a gymnast (filmed as documentary) and a housewife (told as fiction).