If the BFI London Film Festival has a problem, it’s that it gives you too much of a good thing.
The Festival is absolutely massive, and seems to get bigger every year: a two-week monolith comprised of over 300 features and shorts, as well as masterclasses, events and special programmes. Any of its individual strands could be a completely solid film festival in its own right, so where to begin? You could easily spend the next fortnight attending as many things as possible and still barely scratch the surface.
Photo: Robert Fenzs The Sole of the Foot about people who are denied a home.
And yet, the LFF’s sheer breadth of content is its strongest quality. What could be overwhelming is in its own way inspiring: it’s impossible to thumb through the programme and not be inundated with films you’ve been looking forward to, directors you’ve heard good things about, premises that sound intriguing, and classic films you’ve always wanted to see in a cinema.
It encourages a certain boldness. Even if you end up mostly watching the Autumn’s big prestige films (almost exclusively in one of the smaller screens at the Leicester Square Vue, alas), there’s still that temptation to take a few stabs in the dark and seize the opportunity to be challenged by something. The Festival’s bulk means that watching some small cinematic gem feels even more special somehow, like you’ve discovered something.
Photo: Director Miranda July will be giving a film masterclass. © Photographer / Designer Todd Cole
With such a range on offer, it’s impossible to talk about the Festival’s highlights without getting into personal tastes: the best advice is to get a copy of the programme and make sure it ends up well-thumbed. Also, to attend any of the screen talks or masterclasses if possible: this year’s guests include Michael Winterbottom, Abi Morgan, Miranda July and Alexander Payne, all of whom are articulate, interesting, and maddeningly talented.
We’re going to be covering the Festival throughout the next two weeks so look out for future posts with impressions of films seen as well as the occasional interview and other splendid things.