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BFI London Film Festival is going nationwide – and virtual – this year

You’ll be able to catch a buzzy premiere from home this October

Written by
Time Out Film

A highlight of the city’s moviegoing calendar, the BFI London Film Festival is shapeshifting with the times in this pandemic-hit year. Instead of the traditional 12-day feast of movies mainly screened in West End venues, this new-look and streamlined LFF will be a predominantly virtual event when it runs between October 7 and 18.

It will also have a physical dimension, taking in cinemas across the UK for the first time in its 63-year history. There will be 12 previews of upcoming films available to moviegoers around the country – the films and venues are still to be announced – to go with 50 films that will be available via VOD at home. Londoners can catch those dozen exclusive previews at BFI Southbank and other London cinemas, in anticipation of them reopening over the coming months.

‘Like many other live events around the world, we’ve had to make changes to our plans in response to a global pandemic, factoring in safety concerns and restrictions,’ says festival director Tricia Tuttle. ‘This year has also given us an opportunity to think creatively about how we make the Festival more accessible. It was vital to us that we get back to cinemas, and are looking forward to working with independent and cultural venues across the UK.

As usual, the programme promises to take in the best narrative cinema from around the world, as well documentaries, animations, artists’ moving images, and restored classics from the archives. Look out for free talks, events and shorts – all delivered virtually, of course.

‘It’s a pleasure each year to speak with audiences who share the ways filmmakers have made them laugh, think, weep, or shifted their way of seeing,’ says Tuttle. ‘We can’t wait to share many of this year’s extraordinary new films – from around the world, from artists of different backgrounds and with many bold distinctive filmmaking voices.’

The festival’s focus, explains Tuttle, is on making the fest as accessible as possible and giving audiences ‘the opportunity to engage in different ways’. That means a one-off ‘audience award’ that offers everyone the chance to vote on Best Fiction Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Short Film, and Best XR (cross reality) screenings. 

The full line-up will be announced on September 8. Check back then for details of the films screening, pricing and all the other handy information you’ll need to enjoy the film jamboree. It’s the LFF, Jim, but not as we know it. 

Looking to support your local cinema through this difficult period? 
Buy a membership to one of London’s independent cinemas.

Ten ways cinemas will be different when they reopen in July.

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