England, 1819: It's been several years since the Napoleonic Wars. Now it's time to stand up to the nobility at home. Broad swaths of the country are impoverished and are suffering in a catastrophic famine. No recovery is in sight, especially as limited voting rights restrict the involvement of most of the population in the country's affairs. Led by radical orator Henry Hunt, some 60,000 people gather on August 16 at a peaceful demonstration for reform — until pressure from above causes a catastrophe. Mike Leigh's period drama recalls a forgotten chapter of class struggle in Britain whose aftereffects are still felt today. His film doesn't focus on the bloody conflict, however, but on the people who experienced this tragedy.
Meet the director
Mike Leigh was born in greater Manchester, England, in 1943. In London, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Camberwell Art School, the Central School of Arts and Crafts, and the London Film School. Following several years in the theater, he increasingly turned to film. BLEAK MOMENTS (1971), his first film, earned a Golden Leopard in Locarno. For SECRETS & LIES (1996), he received a Golden Palm in Cannes. For VERA DRAKE (2004), he received a Golden Lion for best film in Venice. PETERLOO had its world premiere in competition in Venice in 2018. In the course of his career, Leigh has been nominated for an Oscar seven times.