Polite Society

UK 2023, 103 mins
Director: Nida Manzoor

+ intro with writer-director Nida Manzoor

16-year-old Ria is an aspiring stuntwoman, dreaming of her future excelling in the film business while her older sister Lena becomes a world famous artist. But Lena has been withdrawing from her art, and instead becomes swept up by a charming suitor, heading into a marriage at speed. Ria doesn’t trust her future in-laws – can she use her martial arts training to stop Lena’s wedding and rescue her in the name of sisterhood? Nida Manzoor’s (We Are Lady Parts) creative and original feature directorial debut is a fun, fast-paced Austen-esque comedy packed with smashing action and shenanigans.

The Origins of ‘Polite Society’
The spark of the idea that ultimately became Polite Society – an immensely fun and original action comedy about two sisters navigating cultural and parental expectations – was first ignited by writer-director Nida Manzoor over ten years ago. She wrote the first draft of the script in her early 20s, but it took the years that followed for her to find the perfect partners to bring the film to vibrant, action-packed life on screen. ‘It’s been a long road but I have now been able to make the feature film of my dreams,’ shares Manzoor.

One of those collaborators was producer Olivier Kaempfer, who came on board with his company Parkville Pictures to help develop the project early on. Kaempfer immediately fell in love with the project and brought BFI on board as early development financiers. ‘I first came across Nida in 2016 when I saw her short, Arcade, which is still one of my favourite shorts to this day,’ Kaempfer recalls. ‘It immediately felt so different and fresh compared to so many other shorts that I was seeing. She was a filmmaker I wanted to meet and ideally develop a feature with and that feature became Polite Society.

Nida is quite rare in that she has very bold and original ideas but she can also execute them. She was very much our creative leader and she has the vision that we’re all behind so it’s been fantastic.’

Manzoor is best known as the creator, writer, and director of the acclaimed series, We Are Lady Parts, about a Muslim female punk band. The series has been celebrated for its electrifying humour, fusion of styles and nuanced, complex characters. ‘My favourite thing about making film and television is the opportunity to bring marginalied communities into mainstream genres – action, sci-fi, comedy,’ says Manzoor. ‘Occupying areas of storytelling we are so often invisible in. I love writing comedy. It’s my goto form of expression when I put pen to paper, my most natural form of storytelling. I feel comedy is the most disarming of all the genres. If done well it can make us warm to characters from different backgrounds deeply and immediately.’

The filmmaker had loved collaborating with the gifted creative team on We Are Lady Parts, and as the feature film script evolved, many of them enthusiastically signed on to bring her latest vision to life, including Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner who produce the film.

‘We really loved the TV show and thought that Nida had a very original voice for writing and directing characters that we weren’t really aware of,’ says Bevan. ‘I asked her what else she was about and the script of Polite Society, which she developed with Olivier, landed on my desk.’

Bevan was delighted by the early draft but suggested expanding the world even more. ‘We said, “We’re interested in doing Polite Society but we don’t want to do it as a tiny, little movie”,’ he remembers. ‘We wanted to do it as something much bigger, making it more genre-driven and including elements that would make it cinematic, unexpected, and generally a lot of fun to watch. So, we all worked on the script and upped the fight sequences, came up with the plot twist, and generally made it even madder.’

Manzoor hoped the film would feel like an ode to all the films that had shaped her, but she also wanted to see something on screen that she hadn’t experienced before. ‘I wanted to make this film for many reasons but predominantly so I could see a South Asian teenage girl as an action hero,’ she shares. ‘I grew up loving the spectacle of action movies but feeling extremely left out, so this film is for my teenage self. South Asian characters are often relegated to shop owners and terrorists, token friends to the white leads. It meant everything to me to centre the film around a South Asian girl – who is flawed and funny and kicks ass.’

Other members of the We Are Lady Parts team were equally excited to board the film including series producer John Pocock, who serves as a producer on Polite Society. ‘I was really keen to work on Polite Society with Nida after doing Lady Parts together,’ he says. ‘I read it and thought it was so exciting and different. There was a lot of comedy, fight sequences, and drama. What a great project to work on!’

Also reuniting for the film were Lady Parts’ production designer Simon Walker, costume designer P.C. Williams, makeup artist Claire Carter, and editor Robbie Morrison, along with several cast members.

Director of photography Ashley Connor had not previously collaborated with Manzoor, although she had worked with Kaempfer on another film and the producer instinctively felt that Connor and Manzoor could create something visually spectacular together. ‘I’m very invested in telling stories for young women, and seeing this kind of heroine is really exciting to me,’ says Connor of her attraction to the project. ‘The film is intelligent and doesn’t speak down to its audience. There’s a desire to change the ways and means by which we produce content, make films and TV shows, and somebody like Nida and her process are at the forefront of that change. She’s creating sets that have different energies on them, different motivations, and different means of collaborating and working.’

Of walking onto a set every day filled with women at the top of their game, Ritu Arya, who plays Lena, says it was a special experience that won’t be forgotten. ‘Nida is a fantastic director who is doing amazing things,’ she observes. ‘It’s the third time I’ve worked with her and every time it’s just gotten better and better. Our DP, Ashley, is such a badass and she was always trying out different things as well. Then even the grips and the sound department were full of women which felt so cool. On top of all of that, it has been so empowering to have this ensemble consist of such a diverse – primarily South Asian – cast. I’m so happy that this film exists. It’s what I’ve been waiting to see for a very long time.’
Production notes

Directed by: Nida Manzoor
©: LLC Focus Features
Production Company: Working Title Films
In association with: Parkville Pictures
Presented by: Focus Features
Executive Producer: Cecilia Frugiuele
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Olivier Kaempfer, John Pocock
Co-producer: Rachel Alabaster
Production Manager: Daniel Watkins
Financial Controller: Gemma Kent
Location Manager: Keith Hatcher
Post-production Supervisor: Hannah Dunnell
1st Assistant Director: Clare Awdry
2nd Assistant Director: Darren Baba
Script Supervisor: Francesca Brooks
Casting Director: Aisha Bywaters
Written by: Nida Manzoor
Director of Photography: Ashley Connor
Steadicam Operator: Will Lyte
Visual Effects 1: Automatik VFX
Editor: Robbie Morrison
Production Designer: Simon Walker
Art Directors: Sophie Lockwood, James Cross
Set Decorator: Amanda Sorrin
Graphic Designer: Kate Trevessey
Property Master: Tom Roberts
Costume Designer: PC Williams
Hair and Make-up Designer: Claire Carter
Title Design: Peter Anderson Studio
Score by: Tom Howe, Shez Manzoor
Orchestra Leader: Everton Nelson
Conductor: Tom Howe
Orchestrators: David Butterworth, Evan Rogers
Score Recordist: Marc McCouig
Score Mixer: Jake Jackson
Choreography: Choreographer
Production Sound Mixer: Alastair Widgery
Re-recording Mixers: Simon Hill, Tushar Manek
Supervising Sound Editor: Jay Price
Stunt Co-ordinator: Crispin Layfield
Fight Co-ordinator: Rob Lock
Martial Arts Assistant: Adam Rhys Williams

Priya Kansara (Ria Khan)
Ritu Arya (Lena)
Nimra Bucha (Raheela)
Akshay Khanna (Salim)
Seraphina Beh (Clara)
Ella Bruccoleri (Alba)
Shona Babayemi (Kovacs)
Shobu Kapoor (Fatima)
Jeff Mirza (Rafe)
Renu Brindle (Mrs Nawaz)
Rekha John-Cheriyan (Mrs Abbas)
Sally Ann (Edith)
Jenny Funnell (Ms Spence)
Sophie Aisling (Mrs Iqbal)
Su McLaughlin (Mrs Ahmed)
Tia Dutt (Jezah)
Ryan Loccohee (Sensei 1)
Ulli Ackerman (security guard)
James McNicholas (head waiter)
Tom Bonington (registrar)
Eunice Huthart (herself)
Sania Shireen Haq, Hemali Patel, Anjlee Bathia,
Aliya Meghjee (dancers)
Rob Lock (Sensei 2)
Adam Rhys Williams (Magnus)

UK 2023
103 mins

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The Duellists + Q&A with composer Howard Blake
Mon 24 Apr 18:10
Theorem (Teorema) + intro and talk with Bruce LaBruce, and Doesn’t Exist magazine launch
Thu 27 Apr 18:00
Enys Men with Live Score by The Cornish Sound Unit
Mon 1 May 18:40
Preview: Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power + Nina Menkes in Conversation
Wed 10 May 18:00
Dario Argento in Conversation
Fri 12 May 18:20
Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI
Mon 15 May 18:30
TV Preview: Best Interests + Q&A with Sharon Horgan and Jack Thorne
Mon 22 May 18:15
Preview: The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse! + Q&A with directors Mikk Magi and Oskar Lehemaa
Fri 26 May 18:15
World Premiere: Straight 8 2023 Top 25
Sat 27 May 18:00

Never miss an issue with Sight and Sound, the BFI’s internationally renowned film magazine. Subscribe from just £25*
*Price based on a 6-month print subscription (UK only). More info:

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email