The North Water

UK 2021
Director: Andrew Haigh

+ Q&A with director Andrew Haigh and actor Sir Tom Courtenay (in person) plus live via Zoom, actors Colin Farrell and Jack O’Connell. Hosted by broadcaster and critic Rhianna Dhillon.

Adapted for the screen and directed by Andrew Haigh, The North Water features Jack O’Connell as Patrick Sumner, Colin Farrell as Henry Drax, and Stephen Graham as Captain Brownlee, alongside Tom Courtenay as Baxter. The North Water also stars Peter Mullan, Sam Spruell and Roland Møller.

Set in Hull and on the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s, The North Water’s location work took place primarily in the Arctic, shooting on the frozen seas north of the Svalbard Archipelago. The cast and production team sailed as far as 81 degrees north to film sequences in the pack ice, the furthest point north it is believed a drama series has ever filmed before.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Ian McGuire, the five-part series tells the story of Patrick Sumner (O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. But the ferocity of the elements is matched by the violence of his crew mates, with Drax (Farrell), a harpooner and distinctly brutal force of nature. As the true purpose of the expedition becomes clear, confrontation between the two men erupts, taking them on a journey far from solid ground and beyond the safe moorings of civilisation.

Commissioned by the BBC, The North Water is made by See-Saw Films. Executive producers are Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman for See-Saw Films, Niv Fichman for Rhombus Media, and Jo McClellan for the BBC. The series was produced by Kate Ogborn. The North Water is a co-production with Rhombus Media and is distributed internationally by BBC Studios.

The North Water will air on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer this autumn.

About the panel

Andrew Haigh has written and directed three award-winning feature films: Lean on Pete (2017), 45 Years (2016), and Weekend (2011). Lean on Pete premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2017, while his previous film, 45 Years, premiered at Berlinale 2015 where it won Silver Bears for the lead performances of Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. It went on to win numerous international awards including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and a Bafta nomination for Best British Film. He was also the executive producer and lead writer/director on the HBO show Looking (2013 to 2016).

Sir Tom Courtenay is an English actor of stage and screen. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Courtenay achieved prominence in the 1960s with a series of acclaimed film roles, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner for which he received the BAFTA for Most Promising, and Doctor Zhivago, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Other notable film roles during this period include Billy Liar; King and Country, for which he was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival; King Rat and The Night of the Generals. For his performance in the film adaptation of The Dresser, in which he reprised the role of Norman he originated both on the West End and Broadway, he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor and received both Academy Award and BAFTA nominations. More recently, he received critical acclaim for his performance in Andrew Haigh’s film 45 Years.

Courtenay has been feted for his work on television also, winning two BAFTA awards for his performances in the television film A Rather English Marriage and the first series of the crime drama Unforgotten. Courtenay was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for the miniseries Little Dorrit. As well as his competitive honours, Courtenay has been recognised with an honorary doctorate from the University of Hull and, in February 2001, was created a Knight Bachelor for his services for cinema and theatre.

Jack O’Connell’s career has catapulted since winning the EE Rising Star Award at the 2015 BAFTA Awards and the New Hollywood Award at the 2015 Hollywood Film Awards and he has fast become one of the UK’s most versatile and exciting actors.

Jack is currently working on SAS: Rogue Heroes, a new television drama produced by Kudos for BBC One based on the book by Ben Macintyre which depicts the conception of the famed Special Forces unit. Jack has most recently been seen starring in Little Fish – a film focusing on a young married couple who fight to keep their love alive in the face of a mysterious pandemic that erases people’s memories. 2019 saw the release of Benedict Andrews’ thriller Seberg, which received its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Max Winkler’s Jungleland was released in 2020 which saw Jack star as bare-knuckle fighter ‘Lion’ alongside Charlie Hunnam as his brother.

Spring 2019 saw Jack star alongside Laura Dern in new feature film Trial by Fire, a fact-based drama directed by Ed Zwick. Prior to this, Jack was seen starring alongside Sienna Miller in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize winning play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Following his appearance on stage, Jack starred in the original Netflix Western drama series Godless, written and directed by Scott Frank and produced with Steven Soderbergh and Casey Silver. 2017 saw O’Connell star as a Czech resistance fighter in The Man with the Iron Heart.

Colin Farrell has had a distinguished career of nearly 20-plus years in film and television. An accomplished actor recognised the world over, Farrell is currently shooting the MGM film Thirteen Lives for director Ron Howard and wrapped the Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ The Batman for director Matt Reeves in the co-starring role as legendary villain ‘The Penguin’. Farrell can next be seen in A24’s After Yang, and this autumn he re-teams with Brendan Gleeson and writer/director Martin McDonagh to shoot The Banshees of Inisheer for Fox Searchlight.

Farrell was most recently seen in Tim Burton’s 2019 live action film Dumbo and Fox’s 2018 ensemble feature Widows, directed by Steve McQueen. In 2017, Farrell made his second film with Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer opposite Nicole Kidman for A24. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival along with Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, in which he also starred with Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Kirsten Dunst. That same year, he appeared opposite Denzel Washington in the Sony film Roman Israel, Esq., written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Lanthimos’s The Lobster, co-starring Rachel Weisz, was Farrell’s first time working with the reputable director. The film won the Jury Prize at the 68th Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a 2016 BAFTA. Farrell was also nominated by the Golden Globes, British Independent Film Awards, and European Film Awards for his performance in the film.

June 2015 marked Farrell’s television debut in the second season of HBO’s True Detective. In 2009, he won a Golden Globe for his role in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Past work also includes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Miss Julie, Saving Mr. Banks, Winter’s Tale, Dead Man Down, Total Recall, Peter Weir’s The Way Back, London Boulevard, Fright Night, Horrible Bosses, and Ondine. Farrell also had memorable roles in Pride and Glory, Miami Vice, Oliver Stone’s Alexander, Terrence Malick’s The New World, Ask the Dust, The Recruit, A Home at the End of the World, based on the Michael Cunningham novel, and two of Joel Schumacher’s films, Phone Booth and Tigerland. Other notable film credits include Minority Report, Daredevil, American Outlaws, SWAT, and Intermission.

Born and raised in Castleknock in the Republic of Ireland, Farrell attended the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin before landing starring roles in Deirde Purcell’s miniseries Falling for a Dancer, the BBC series Ballykissangel, and Tim Roth’s directorial debut, The War Zone.

Host: Rhianna Dhillon is the film and TV critic for the BBC6 Music Breakfast show. Rhianna began her career as the film critic for Radio 1 and 1Xtra and is the voice of the Radio 4 Seriously… podcast as well as the co-host of BIFA’s This Is My Cinema series. Rhianna co-hosted the opening night of the BAFTAs 2021 and works with the BFI and BAFTA, moderating Q&As for them as well as other film companies.

(Episodes 1 and 2)

Director/Writer: Andrew Haigh
Production Company: See-Saw Films
In co-production with: Rhombus Media
Executive Producers: Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Niv Fichman, Jo McClellan
Producer: Kate Ogborn
Cinematographer: Nicolas Bolduc
Editors: Jonathan Alberts, Matthew Hannam
Production Designer: Emmanuel Fréchette
Costume Designer: Sarah Blenkinsop
Hair and Make-up Designer: Karen Hartley Thomas

Jack O’Connell (Patrick Sumner)
Colin Farrell (Henry Drax)
Stephen Graham (Captain Brownlee)
Tom Courtenay (Baxter)
Sam Spruell (Cavendish)
Roland Møller (Otto)
Peter Mullan (priest)
Philip Hill Pearson (McKendrick)
Kieran Urquhart (Jones)
Jonathan Aris (Corbyn)
Stephen McMillan (Joseph Hannah)
Eliza Butterworth (Hester)
Nive Nielsen (Anna)
Natar Ungalaaq (elder Inuk)
Jerry Laisa (younger Inuk)
Ipeelie Ootoova (Urgang)
Keenan Carpenter (Merok)

UK 2021
Total runtime 120 mins

Preview: The Sparks Brothers + Q&A with director Edgar Wright
Tue 3 Aug 19:45
BFI & Radio Times Television Festival presents: TV Preview: The North Water + Q&A with director Andrew Haigh and cast
Wed 4 Aug 18:15
The Alan Whicker Centenary: Welcome to Whicker’s World + intro
Sat 7 Aug 14:30
The Alan Whicker Centenary: The Life and Legacy of Alan Whicker
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Preview: I’m Your Man (Ich bin dein Mensch) + pre-recorded Q&A with director Maria Schrader
Mon 9 Aug 17:50
BFI & Radio Times Television Festival presents: TV Preview: Vigil + Q&A with cast and creatives
Mon 23 Aug 18:10

Seniors’ Free Matinee: Personal Services + intro and Q&A with author, Graham Rinaldi
Mon 9 Aug 14:00
Projecting the Archive: The Blue Lagoon + intro by actor Susan Stranks (young Emmeline)
Tue 10 Aug 18:00
Member Picks: Almost Famous
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Silent Cinema: The Wit and Wisdom of A.A. Milne + intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI Curator
Sun 15 Aug 12:40
DVD Launch: Great Noises That Fill the Air: Music, Poetry and Performance on Film
Mon 16 Aug 17:50
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Fri 20-Sun 22 Aug
Experimenta: Thundercrack! + intro by Jane Giles, author of ‘Scala Cinema 1987-1993
Sat 21 Aug 17:00
Relaxed Screening: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Tue 24 Aug 18:00
Woman with a Movie Camera: Preview: Souad + pre-recorded Q&A with director Ayten Amin
Tue 24 Aug 18:00
Terror Vision: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors
Thu 26 Aug 20:40

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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