London is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and creative cities. For over 50 years, the BFI’s (British Film Institute) annual London Film Festival (LFF) has been Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s top film festivals. It introduces the finest new British and international films to audiences from across the UK, and has participation from the international film industry. LFF is an enthralling mixture of red carpet glamour, outgoing audiences and healthy debate. It helps films seeking global distribution to raise their profile. Through its screenings and award programmes, LFF celebrates the best in British and international cinema.
Unlike many other festivals, events are also held across the UK during LFF’s 12 days. The opening and closing nights now have simultaneous screenings to 50 cinemas across the country. The festival also holds 70 nationwide screenings of Special Features. This inclusive trait of the festival represents its core ethos – a public event that replicates the atmosphere of normal cinema screenings. Rather than being based in one artistic neighbourhood, the main Festival showcases films in different London districts. In West End cinemas, local neighbourhood cinemas, and famous theatres like the Empire Leicester Square, Curzon Chelsea and Queen Elizabeth Hall. This diversity of locations reflects not only the size of London, but also LFF’s commitment to providing public access to films, across communities.
The London Film Festival began in 1953. Somewhat unusually for a festival, it was a group of film critics who called for the organisation of a film festival. They believed that London needed a major film festival like Cannes, Venice and Berlin. The inaugural festival was organised by the by the director of the BFI and was held at a single venue, the National Film Theatre (now renamed the BFI Southbank). Initially, it projected films from the ‘best filmmakers’, selected from those shown at other leading film festivals. However, the Festival soon evolved to incorporate new talent.
The festival has not always had as high profile as other major festivals. That has begun to change in recent years, attracting film celebrities and journalists from around the globe. But the festival itself sticks closely to the original idea. To give audiences access to films that may not be shown in British cinemas, and of course an early look at films due for release.
Given that it came from an idea by film critics, the festival has always prided itself on its question and answer sessions. Audiences can watch a film, and gain insights into the story, direction and production from the movies makers. The festival has an annual audience turnout of approximately 163,300. The public are able to watch around 250 films, including World and European Premieres, from 70 countries. The Festival attracts about 800 UK and international filmmakers, and 1000 members of the media. LFF also holds Industry screenings and events, attended by another 1000 industry delegates.
Some of the films that have won awards at LFF include:
- We Need to Talk About Kevin
- How I Ended This Summer
- Un prophète