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London Film Festival

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London Film Festival

The BFI London Film Festival (also known as just the London Film Festival) is the UK's largest public film event, screening more than 300 features, documentaries and shorts from almost 50 countries. The festival, (the LFF), currently in its 56th year, is run every year in the second half of October under the umbrella of the British Film Institute. The Festival showcases the best of world cinema to champion creativity, originality, vision and imagination, and presents the finest contemporary international cinema from both established and emerging film-makers. Set in the Autumn, the festival hosts high profile awards contenders, screens recently restored archive films, champions new discoveries and combines curatorial strength with red carpet glamour. It also provides an extensive programme of industry events, public forums, education events, lectures, masterclasses and Q&As with film-makers and film talent.


In 1953 a group of film critics including Dilys Powell of the The Sunday Times, raised the notion of a film festival for London. They reasoned that with Cannes and Venice having their festivals, as did Edinburgh, so surely London should too. However their aim was to pitch the new festival squarely at the public - giving audiences an opportunity to see movies which might not otherwise appear in British cinemas. Originally aiming to be a 'festival of festivals', it focused on screening a selection of strong titles from other European film festivals, including Cannes and Venice. The first London Film Festival was conceived by the then BFI British Film Institute Director James Quinn, and took place at the NFT (National Film Theatre, now renamed BFI Southbank) from 16–26 October. It was launched the day after the inauguration of the new NFT on its current site under Waterloo Bridge. It screened only 15-20 films from a renowned selection of directors, including Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Yasujirō Ozu, Luchino Visconti and Andrzej Wajda. While the programme still retains the 'festival of festivals' feel, it also now shows new discoveries from "important and exciting talents" in world cinema. Whilst it continues to be first and foremost a public festival, it is also attended by large numbers of film professionals and journalists from all over the world. Importantly, it offers opportunities for people to see films that may not otherwise get a UK screening along with films which will get a release in the near future.

The festival is "topped and tailed" by the Opening and Closing galas which have now become major red carpet events in the London calendar and are world premiere screenings, which take place in large venues in central London, attended by the cast and crew of the films, and introduced by the Festival director and the film's directors or producers, and often the actors themselves.

Previously a number of festival awards were presented at the Closing gala but in 2009, with the aid of some funding from the UK Film Council, a stand alone awards ceremony was introduced.

Other than these events the screenings at the Festival are quite informal and similar to the normal cinema experience except for two things; some films are accompanied by Q&A sessions which give the audience unique access to the film-maker and/or a member of the cast and offer insight into the making of the film and occasionally an opportunity for the audience to engage directly and ask questions; and the second aspect is that people generally stay and watch the credits.

The festival is divided into themes which cover different areas of interest - in 2009 these were; Galas and Special Screenings, Film on the Square, New British Cinema, French Revolutions, Cinema Europa, World Cinema, Experimenta, Treasures from the Archives, Short Cuts and Animation. In 2009 the Festival, whilst focused around Leicester Square (Vue, Odeon West End and Empire) and the BFI Southbank in central London, also screened films across 18 other venues – Curzon Mayfair, ICA Cinema on The Mall, The Ritzy in Brixton, Cine Lumière in South Kensington, Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, David Lean Cinema in Croydon, the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel, The Greenwich Picturehouse, the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, Rich Mix in Old Street, the Rio Cinema in Dalston, the Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn, the Waterman Art Centre in Brentford and Trafalgar Square for the open air screening of short films from the BFI National Archive. The 2009 Festival featured 15 world premieres including Wes Anderson’s first animated feature, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Sam Taylor-Wood’s feature début Nowhere Boy, about the formative years of John Lennon, as well as and the Festival’s first ever Archive Gala, the BFI’s new restoration of Anthony Asquith’s Underground, with live music accompaniment by the Prima Vista Social Club. European premieres in 2009 included Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs, Scott Hicks’ The Boys Are Back and Robert Connolly’s Balibo, as well as Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s The Well and Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson’s Mugabe And The White African.

In 2009, directors travelling to London to introduce their latest work included Michael Haneke (Cannes Palme d'Or winner, The White Ribbon), Atom Egoyan (Chloe), Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!), Lone Scherfig (An Education), Ang Lee (Taking Woodstock), Jane Campion (Bright Star), Gaspar Noé (Enter The Void), Lee Daniels (Precious), Grant Heslov (The Men Who Stare At Goats), and Jason Reitman (Up In The Air). In addition to Fantastic Mr. Fox and Up In The Air, George Clooney supported his role in The Men Who Stare At Goats. The Festival also welcomed back previous alumni such as John Hillcoat (The Road), Joe Swanberg (Alexander The Last) and Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers), whilst also screening films from Manoel de Oliveira (Eccentricities Of A Blonde-Haired Girl), Jim Jarmusch (The Limits Of Control), Claire Denis (White Material), Ho-Yuhang (At The End Of Daybreak), Todd Solondz (Life During Wartime), and Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man).

London Film Festival team

  • Artistic Director: Sandra Hebron
  • Programmer: Michael Hayden
  • Producer: Helen de Witt
  • Head of Projects and Development: Anne-Marie Flynn
  • Programme Manager: Sarah Lutton
  • BFI Director: Amanda Nevill


The categories highlight both emerging and established talent.

  • The Grierson Award – for the best feature-length documentary in the festival. This award is given jointly by the LFF and the Grierson Trust which commemorates the pioneering Scottish documentary-maker John Grierson (1898–1972), famous for Drifters and Night Mail. The Grierson Trust has a long-standing tradition of recognising outstanding films that demonstrate integrity, originality and technical excellence and social or cultural significance.

From 2009, a new standalone awards ceremony was launched which included the following awards:

  • Best Film – celebrates creative, original, imaginative, intelligent and distinctive film-making.
  • Best British Newcomer Award – celebrates new and emerging British film talent and recognises the achievements of a new writer, producer or director who demonstrates real creative flair and imagination with their first feature.
  • BFI Fellowships – the Festival showcases both the work of new film-makers and established ones, and presenting two Fellowships provides a fitting contrast to those Awards recognising new talent.


The Sutherland Trophy
Tarnation, dir. Jonathan Caouette
7th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Aaltra, dir. Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
A Way Of Life, dir. Amma Asante
9th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
The Woodsman, dir. Nicole Kassell
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Nits, dir. Harry Wootliff


The Sutherland Trophy
For the Living and the Dead, dir. Kari Paljakka
8th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Man Push Cart, dir. Ramin Bahrani
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
Producer Gayle Griffiths
The 10th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
Pavee Lackeen, dir. Perry Ogden
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Workingman's Death, dir. Michael Glawogger
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Happy, dir. Jane Lloyd


The Sutherland Trophy
Red Road, dir. Andrea Arnold
9th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Lola, dir. Javier Rebollo
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
Producer Mark Herbert
The 11th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
The Lives of Others, dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Thin, dir. Lauren Greenfield
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Silence Is Golden, dir. Chris Shepherd


The Sutherland Trophy
Persepolis, dir. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
10th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Unrelated, dir. Joanna Hogg
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
Sarah Gavron, director of Brick Lane
The 12th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
California Dreamin', awarded posthumously to director Cristian Nemescu
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories, dir. Andrey Paounov
TCM Classic Shorts Award
À bout de truffe, dir. Tom Tagholm


The Sutherland Trophy
Tulpan, dir. Sergey Dvortsevoy
11th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Three Blind Mice, dir. Matthew Newton
The 13th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
Mid-August Lunch, dir. Gianni Gregorio
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Victoire Terminus, dir. Florent de la Tullaye and Renaud Barret
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Leaving, dir. Richard Penfold and Sam Hearn


In 2009, a new annual standalone awards ceremony was launched to showcase the work of imaginative and original film-makers and to reward distinctive and intriguing work.

The Awards took place at the Inner Temple on 28 October 2009 and were hosted by Almuth Tebbenhoff.

Best Film
Un prophète, dir. Jacques Audiard
The Sutherland Trophy
Ajami, dir. Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani
Best British Newcomer Award
Jack Thorne, writer of The Scouting Book For Boys
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Defamation, dir. Yoav Shamir
BFI Fellowships
Filmmaker - Souleymane Cissé
Actor - John Hurt


  • The Grierson Award: Nick Broomfield, Ellen Fleming, Christopher Hird, Michael Hayden, Sandra Hebron


Best Film
How I Ended This Summer, dir. Alexei Popogrebski[1]
The Sutherland Trophy
The Arbor, dir. Clio Barnard
Best British Newcomer Award
Clio Barnard, director of The Arbor
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Armadillo, dir. Janus Metz
BFI Fellowship
Filmmaker - Danny Boyle


Best Film
We Need to Talk About Kevin, dir. Lynne Ramsay[2]
The Sutherland Trophy
Las Acacias, dir. Pablo Giorgelli[2]
Best British Newcomer Award:
Candese Reid, actress in Junkhearts[2]
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life, dir. Werner Herzog[2]
BFI Fellowships
Filmmaker - David Cronenberg[2]
Actor - Ralph Fiennes[2]


Main article: 2012 BFI London Film Festival Awards

See also

  • British Film Institute Fellowship


External links

  • bfi Homepage
  • London Film Festival Homepage
  • The LoveFilm London Film Festival blog
  • BFI London Film Festival
  • - History and Highlights of London Film Festival
  • Eye For Film - Reviews and Features from 2006-2013 London Film Festival
  • London Film Festival 2008
  • BBC Film Network: London Film Festival 2010 roundup
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