This year, most of the festival is taking place virtually. Ticket-holders will have access to online screenings for over 55 premieres, complete with viewable shorts, talks and events. Only 12 movies will screen at BFI Southbank and at various venues across the UK. Also, LFF will introduce a brand-new strand: LFF Expanded, dedicated to XR technology like virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and immersive performances.
Even though it won’t be the same – the community of film-lovers being integral to any festival – this enhanced accessibility allows for more to enjoy LFF.
The festival runs from Wednesday 7 to Sunday 18 October online, at the BFI Southbank, and in cinemas across the country. Bookings vary depending on how much of a BFI fan you are. If you’re a BFI Patron, they open on Monday 14 September. For BFI Champions, it’s Tuesday 15 September. For your regular BFI Member, it’s Wednesday 16 September. Unfortunately, the general public have to wait until Monday 21 September to book anything.
The programme was recently announced. Here’s a glimpse of what to expect.
Mangrove, Steve McQueen (Opening Night Gala / Debate Strand)
LFF release date: Wednesday 7 October
Filmmaker Steve McQueen last opened LFF in 2018 with Widows, which proved one of the best films of that year. Now, he’s back with an episode from his new BBC anthology series, Small Axe.
Starring Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Mangrove follows the true story of a group of Black activists arrested, tried and acquitted for a protest at Notting Hill in 1970. Their efforts ensured the first judicial acknowledgement of racial hatred in the British police. In a year of racial violence and incredible protests, this opening couldn’t be more timely.
Ammonite, Francis Lee (Closing Night Gala / Love Strand)
LFF release dates: Saturday 17 October - Sunday 18 October
Francis Lee made waves in LGBT cinema with God’s Own Country in 2017, about a young Yorkshire farmer falling in love with his Romanian assistant. Ammonite is his much anticipated second feature, going back in time to the 1840s.
The film is a biopic (of sorts) about the later life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and her suspected lesbianism. After suffering what was then termed ‘melancholia’, a young married woman from London (Saoirse Ronan) is made to spend time with Anning in Lyme Regis. A romance blooms between them.
Supernova, Harry Macqueen (Love Strand)
LFF release dates: Sunday 11 October - Sunday 18 October
Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play Sam and Tucker, a gay couple who’ve been together for 20 years – living a blissful existence. That is, until Tucker is struck with the news that he has early onset dementia. Intent on making the most of their remaining time, they go on a campervan holiday across the UK. They visit loved ones and travel to meaningful places, all with the knowledge that their story will end in tragedy.
Soul, Pete Docter (Family Strand)
LFF release dates: Sunday 11 October - Sunday 18 October
‘Is all this living really worth dying for?’ In recent years Pixar has adored swimming in death, especially in Up and Coco – tackling hard concepts that are usually scarce in kids’ movies. Their latest film, Soul, looks to take an even deeper existential step.
Handling some difficult metaphysical concepts, which have troubled philosophers for thousands of years, Soul examines the soul’s journey into and out of the body. The musician Joe (Jamie Foxx) is suddenly taken out of his body and into the realm of souls, those yet to enter bodies on earth. In this Platonic existence, pre-body souls learn about human concepts before entering their earthly bodies. As Joe tries to find his way back to the land of the living, he learns a lot about human nature in the process.
David Byrne's American Utopia, Spike Lee (Create Strand)
LFF release dates: Wednesday 14 October - Sunday 18 October
You can’t beat a concert film made by a good director – just look at Martin Scorsese’s work with The Band, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. The Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense, made by Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme, is one of the most esteemed examples of the genre.
Now, their lead singer David Byrne has geared up for another, based on his Broadway show, American Utopia. This time around, he’s attracted another iconic director: Spike Lee. The show is filled with performances of Byrne's classics, punctuated with reflections on human connection.
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao (Journey Strand)
LFF release dates: Friday 16 October - Saturday 17 October
Nomadland is one of the most anticipated titles circulating film festivals around the world. Director Chloé Zhao follows up her brilliantly slow and subtle The Rider with a road trip across nomad America. Frances McDormand plays Fern, a citizen in a rural Nevada town which endures economic collapse. She decides to abandon everything and live a nomadic life, exploring the American West.
Mogul Mowgli, Bassam Tariq (Dare Strand)
LFF release date: Saturday 10 October - Tuesday 13 October
Random events can devastate lives, as they do for the British-Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed) in Mogul Mowgli. Despite ridicule and insults from his family, Zed’s on the edge of a successful career as a music artist as he prepares for a US tour. But he’s suddenly struck with an auto-immune disease that strikes at his opportunities. During painful treatments, he reflects on his identity and his heritage: even diving into the history of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. This looks to be an upsetting, hallucinatory drama.
Shirley, Josephine Decker (Dare Strand)
LFF release dates: Friday 9 October - Tuesday 13 October
Labelled an ‘anti-biopic’, Shirley challenges the codes of the genre by examining The Haunting of Hill House author Shirley Jackson, one of the figureheads of horror literature. Instead of proceeding with events in Jackson’s life, screenwriter Sarah Gubbins invents a story of a young couple staying in the Jackson household.
Shirley becomes enraptured by Rose, a pregnant wife, whose sexual and macabre adoration for one of Shirley’s stories gives way to a strange awakening. Elisabeth Moss stars as Shirley Jackson.
Relic, Natalie Erika James (Cult Strand)
LFF online release dates: Friday 9 October - Monday 12 October
This looks to be the 2020 Hereditary: a psychological horror wrapped in a family drama. Relic combines both 'haunted house' and 'cabin in the woods' genres: following an elderly woman living by herself in a secluded area of Australia. She has dementia and leaves reminders stuck to the walls. She goes missing and her family come looking for her, prompting debate about whether she should be put in a retirement home. But the house has a sticky, shadowy presence that seeps into the family's lives.
Like Hereditary and even The Babadook, another brilliant horror from Australia, Relic moulds real-life anxieties with supernatural terrors. Emily Mortimer stars.
Possessor, Brandon Cronenberg (Cult Strand)
LFF online release date: Friday 16 October
Being the spawn of filmmaker David Cronenberg – a master of surreal body-horror– brings its expectations. Thankfully, the latest project from his son Brandon looks set to meet them.
Possessor follows the assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), who can jump into different bodies to kill her targets, leaving no trace that she committed the murders. But when she approaches her next target, the media mogul John Parse (Sean Bean), things go awry when she tries to take over the mind of his son Colin (Christopher Abbott). Jennifer Jason Leigh also stars.
Here's the list of LFF feature films in full:
David Byrne's American Utopia (dir. Spike Lee)
Delia Derbyshire: the Myths and Legendary Tapes (dir. Caroline Catz)
The Disciple (dir. Chaitanya Tamhane)
The Painter and the Thief (dir. Benjamin Ree)
Striding Into the Wind (dir. Wei Shujun)
Zanka Contact (dir. Ismaël El Iraki)
Possessor (dir. Brandon Cronenberg)
Relic (dir. Natalie Erika James)
Rose: a Love Story (dir. Jennifer Sheridan)
Bad Tales (dir. Fabio D'Innocenzo and Damiano D'Innocenzo)
A Common Crime (dir. Francisco Márquez)
The Intruder (dir. Natalia Meta)
Mogul Mowgli (dir. Bassam Tariq)
New Order (dir. Michel Franco)
Shirley (dir. Josephine Decker)
Siberia (dir. Abel Ferrara)
Wildfire (dir. Cathy Brady)
180° Rule (dir. Farnoosh Samadi)
200 Meters (dir. Ameen Nayfeh)
African Apocalypse (dir. Rob Lemkin)
Identifying Features (dir. Fernanda Valadez)
Industry (dir. Lena Dunham, Tinge Krishnan, and Ed Lilly)
Mangrove (dir. Steve McQueen)
One Man and His Shoes (dir. Yemi Bamiro)
Shadow Country (dir. Bohdan Sláma)
Time (dir. Garrett Bradley)
Ultraviolence (dir. Ken Fero)
Soul (dir. Pete Docter)
Wolfwalkers (dir. Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart)
Another Round (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (dir. Bill Ross and Turner Ross)
A Day-Off for Kasumi Arimura (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Genus Pan (dir. Lav Diaz)
Gold For Dogs (dir. Anna Cazenave Cambet)
I Am Samuel (dir. Pete Murimi)
Limbo (dir. Ben Sharrock)
Nomadland (dir. Chloé Zhao)
Notturno (dir. Gianfranco Rosi)
The Reason I Jump (dir. Jerry Rothwell)
The Salt in Our Waters (dir. Rezwan Shahriar Sumit)
Stray (dir. Elizabeth Lo)
This is My Desire (dir. Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri)
Honeymood (dir. Talya Lavie)
Kajillionaire (dir. Miranda July)
Never Gonna Snow Again (dir. Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert)
After Love (dir. Aleem Khan)
Ammonite (dir. Francis Lee)
Cicada (dir. Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare)
Days (dir. Tsai Ming-Liang)
Farewell Amor (dir. Ekwa Msangi)
Herself (dir. Phyllida Lloyd)
If It Were Love (dir. Patric Chiha)
Supernova (dir. Harry Mcqueen)
Undine (dir. Christian Petzold)
The Cheaters (dir. Paulette McDonagh)
Chess of the Wind (dir. Mohammad-Reza Aslani)
Friendship's Death (dir. Peter Wollen)
|What||BFI London Film Festival 2020: line-up, tickets, recommendations|
07 Oct 20 – 18 Oct 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£determined by cinemas|