The BBC First British Film Festival opens in Brisbane this week, bringing with it 19 Queensland premieres and a diverse line-up of award winners, star vehicles and restored classics.

The festival will open this Thursday 27 October with Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom. Straight from its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival, it’s a period drama based on the real-life romance between Botswanan King Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and his British wife, Ruth William Khama (Rosamund Pike), who caused a stir when they married in 1948.

The festival will close on November 16 with the highly anticipated A Monster Calls. Tipped to feature heavily at next year’s Oscars, the visually spectacular film is based on an acclaimed book by Patrick Ness and stars Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), newcomer Lew MacDougall and Liam Neeson as the voice of the titular monster.

In between those highlights, the festival will present a special focus on filmmaker Ken Loach, with three of his films — the new I, Daniel Blake; the classic Poor Cow; and the revealing documentary Versus: The Life and Times of Ken Loach — set to feature. I, Daniel Blake is definitely the highlight here — it just won Loach his second Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, after the 79-year-old director emerged from retirement to make the film.

Two new Michael Fassbender films will screen at the festival — Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans, co-starring Alicia Vikander and based on the Australian novel by ML Stedman, and Trespass Against Us, a thrilling crime drama co-starring Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) with a pulsating original score by The Chemical Brothers.

Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon stars in A Quiet Passion, a portrait of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson that’s being hailed as the best performance of Nixon’s career, while Rooney Mara (Carol), Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement), Jack Reynor (Sing Street) and Eric Bana (Munich) will star in Academy Award-nominated director Jim Sheridan’s English crime thriller, The Limehouse Golem.

Lovers of documentaries will enjoy The Banksy Job, about ‘art terrorist’ AK47’s quest to steal a piece of Banksy’s public art, and Oasis: Supersonic, a no-holds-barred look back at the turbulent relationship between the Gallagher brothers during their rocky rise to fame.

The retrospective program, Local Heroes, includes 10 films starring Britain’s cinematic heroes — Goldfinger (1964), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), A Room with a View (1985), Oliver! (1968), Room at the Top (1959), Highlander (1986), Sid and Nancy (1986), Carry On Camping (1969), Carry On Up the Khyber (1968) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), starring the late David Bowie.

The BBC First British Film Festival will screen at Palace Barracks from Thursday 27 October to Wednesday 16 November. For more information, visit britishfilmfestival.com.au.