BlacKkKlansman to Ghost Stories: the seven best films to watch on TV this week

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Pick of the week

BlacKkKlansman

Wednesday 20 October, 9pm, Film4
Spike Lee was the obvious fit for the remarkable true story of a Black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. His mix of emphatic politics and love for the socially offbeat combine entertainingly in this 2018 drama about Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an undercover detective in early 70s Colorado who poses as a white racist. Adam Driver plays Jewish officer Flip Zimmerman, who has to be Ron’s public face when he joins the local KKK chapter. Lee revels in the Black culture of the era – the clothes, music, language – and contrasts this with the Klan’s parched, hateful rhetoric. The epilogue – footage of the fatal 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville – shows how much still needs to change.

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An Impossible Love

Saturday 16 October, 1.10am, BBC Two
The emotional power in Catherine Corsini’s 2018 French drama is cumulative as it follows a woman’s life from 26 to old age. Virginie Efira is quietly impressive as Rachel, a secretary in Châteauroux who falls for the charming, intellectual Philippe (Niels Schneider). She overlooks his selfish chauvinism (his being a fan of Nietzsche should have rung alarm bells), even when they have a daughter, Chantal, and he refuses to take responsibility. The vicissitudes of Rachel and her child’s life are narrated by the grownup Chantal, as dark secrets mar their happiness.

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The Death of Stalin

Sunday 17 October, 10.45pm, BBC Two
Armando Iannucci brings his eye for the absurdity of politics to bear on the Soviet Union in 1953 in his spry comedy, though the evils of dictatorship lend it the blackest of edges. When Stalin dies suddenly, the cowed Central Committee is thrown into panic, with secret police chief Beria (a deliciously sly Simon Russell Beale) and adviser Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) jostling for the succession. A fine cast deliver the waspish dialogue with relish – particularly Jason Isaacs as the blunt-speaking general Zhukov – as the veneer of Stalin-enforced stability is wiped away.

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Young Ahmed

Sunday, 11.30pm, BBC Four
The winners of best director at Cannes in 2019, downbeat neo-realist brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne deliver another quiet tragedy. Under the sway of a radical imam in a small town in Belgium, devout teenage Muslim Ahmed (played by Idir Ben Addi) takes it upon himself to kill his “apostate” female teacher. Thanks to Ben Addi’s understated performance, the naive Ahmed’s thoughts remain largely unknowable, though how much he believes the hate speech he spouts is brought into question through a tentative friendship with Victoria Bluck’s farmer’s daughter.

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The Last King of Scotland

Tuesday 19 October, 11.20pm, Film4
Taken from Giles Foden’s novel set in early 70s Uganda, this engrossing 2006 drama from Kevin Macdonald (The Mauritanian) revolves round Forest Whitaker’s screen-grabbing, Oscar-winning turn as the dictator Idi Amin. Charming and ruthless, Amin brings James McAvoy’s Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan into his orbit as his personal physician – a pointed reversal of the former colonial hierarchy. Seduced by his proximity to power, Garrigan finds his morals eroding as Amin’s brutality comes to the fore and he is drawn fatefully towards one of the leader’s wives, Kay (Kerry Washington).

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Ghost Stories

Wednesday 20 October, 11.15pm, BBC Two
A largely successful 2017 adaptation of their hit theatrical chiller by The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson and Derren Brown collaborator Andy Nyman. Nyman also stars as a professor known for debunking supernatural phenomena who is asked to investigate three troubling cases: a nightwatchman (Paul Whitehouse) haunted by a young girl; a teenager (Alex Lawther) who encounters a creature in the woods; and an expectant father (Martin Freeman) plagued by a poltergeist. Doubling down on the shocks, it’s a smartly worked horror anthology more serious than its comedic cast would suggest.

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Found

Wednesday, Netflix
Amanda Lipitz’s heart-tugging documentary sits next to Three Identical Strangers as an interrogation of adoption and its consequences, though without that film’s shock value. A warmer tone prevails, as Chloe, Sadie and Lily, three American teenagers adopted as babies from China, discover they are cousins then try to find their biological parents through a Beijing genealogy detective. The devastating impact of China’s one-child policy is revealed as parents in Guangdong province tell their stories of separation while, touchingly, a deep bond develops between the girls.

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