by Robbie Jones
After a week of watching the festival circuit from afar, the UK can finally take solace in the fact the 65th BFI London Film Festival is only a month away. With a new hybrid format, audiences will be able to take part in premiere galas in the heart of London, screenings across the UK and even online for those who can’t travel. So, what’s on the programme this year?
The Gala premieres list is packed with some of the most anticipated films of 2021; Jeymes Samuel’s feature debut The Harder They Fall, a Western with an all star cast, will open the festival while The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen’s take on the Scottish play will bring it to a close. In between The those, we’re treated to new features from some of modern cinema’s best filmmakers, such as Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, plus Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, both of which fell victim to delays caused by the pandemic. The acclaim bursting out of Telluride is sure to make Spencer a hotly anticipated premiere, as audiences line up to see what could be Kristen Stewart’s Oscar winning role. Speaking of which, Will Smith may be headed towards another nomination playing the father of Serena and Venus Williams in King Richard, also premiering at this year’s festival. Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir: Part 2, family film Ron’s Gone Wrong, the Graham Swift adaptation Mothering Sunday and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter round out the list of 2021’s premiere galas.
Among the special presentations taking place this year, you’ll find Cannes winner Great Freedom, Julie Ducournau’s Titane, Todd Hayne’s loving Velvet Underground documentary and the first two episodes from the third season of HBO’s hit series Succession. Be sure to check out the Strands on offer this year too; take your pick from the delights listed under Laughs, Love, Experimenta, Journey and more. The strand Treasures features showings of some older favourites, like Mike Leigh’s Naked and David Lean’s Oliver!
Playing in competition this year for the Best Film Award are Belle, Il Buco, The Hand of God, Hit the Road, Lingui, The Sacred Bonds, Nitram, Sundown, and True Things. In competition for the Documentary Award are All About my Sisters, Babi Yar. Context, Becoming Coustaeu, A Cop Movie, Cow, The Dance, Faya Dayi and Nascondino. Finally, the films competing for the Short Film Award are The Bang Straws, Diseased and Disorderly, Fantasma Neon, Femme, For Love, Know the Grass, Lemongrass Girl, Love, Dad, Precious Hair & Beauty and Stiletto: ‘A Pink Family Tragedy’.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; be sure to check out the full programme on the BFI’s website to explore everything is playing as part of this year’s festival.