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66TH BFI London Film Festival draws to close with in-person Audiences returning to Pre-Pandemic Highs; 34% of content made by ethnically diverse directors/creators

66TH BFI London Film Festival draws to close with in-person Audiences returning to Pre-Pandemic Highs; 34% of content made by ethnically diverse directors/creators

The 66th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express closed last Sunday with the European Premiere of GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY, attended by a glittering array of special guests including director Rian Johnson and cast members Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick and Dave Bautista. The Closing Night Gala took place at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, which returned as the Festival’s Headline Gala venue for a second time following its inaugural year in 2021.( Main image. Glass Onions with Janelle Monáe, and cast)

Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton and Kate Hudson “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” European Premiere and Closing Night Gala during the 66th BFI London Film Festival at The Royal Festival Hall on October 16, England Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BFI)

Occupancy across both free and paid-for in person events has increased to 87% – slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels of 84% in 2018 and 83% in 2019

Audiences flocked to the Festival’s two vibrant and bustling cultural hubs – the South Bank of the Thames, where the Headline Gala venue sits alongside BFI Southbank and the LFF Expanded programme at nearby 26 Leake Street; and to cinemas in and around world-famous Leicester Square in London’s West End – as well as to UK-wide cinemas showing Festival films. Special guests that appeared on the red carpet, as well as onstage in cinemas across the capital to introduce their work to audiences included Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Matthew Warchus, Tim Minchin, Sam Mendes, Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Guillermo del Toro, Cate Blanchett, Christoph Waltz, Martin McDonagh, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Sebastián Lelio, Florence Pugh, Luca Guadagnino, Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Park Chan-wook, Maria Schrader, Carey Mulligan, Chinonye Chukwu, Danielle Deadwyler, Jennifer Lawrence, Darren Aronofsky, Brendan Fraser, Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig, Florian Zeller, Clea DuVall, Joanna Hogg, Tilda Swinton, Ali Abbasi, Emily Blunt, Chaske Spencer, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Nikyatu Jusu, Anna Diop, Tobias Lindholm, Eddie Redmayne, Jessica Chastain, Michael Grandage, Sally El Hosaini, Ruben Östlund, Sarah Polley, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Asif Kapadia, Laura Poitras, Santiago Mitre, Mia Hansen-Løve, Hlynur Pálmason, Lukas Dhont, Oliver Hermanus, Soudade Kaadan, Albert Serra, Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Judi Dench, Emma Corrin, Ray Winstone, Trinh Minh-ha, Mark Jenkin, Jerzy Skolimowski, Alice Diop, Paul Mescal, Letitia Wright, Aubrey Plaza, James Corden, Sally Hawkins, Alexandra Burke, Yasmin Finney, Charlie Shackleton, Guy Maddin, Malala Yousafzai, Grace Jones, and many more.

Elmi Rashid attends “The Swimmers” UK premiere during the 66th BFI London Film Festival on October 09, 2022 i (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for BFI)

The 66th edition welcomed more than 750 international and UK filmmakers, XR artists and series creatives to present their work at venues across the capital. The Festival featured an exciting range of 167 feature films from both established and emerging talent and hosted 23 World Premieres, International Premieres and 22 European Premieres. The programme presented feature films, shorts, series and immersive art works from 63 countries with 41% of the programme made by female and non-binary directors/creators or co-directors/creators and 34% made by ethnically diverse directors/creators.

OCTOBER 14: Park Chan-wook attends the “Decision To Leave” UK Premiere during the 66th BFI London Film Festival at The Royal Festival Hall Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI)

Building on the huge success of 2021’s new Festival model, this year’s edition saw the return of dual West End hubs in London, a major exhibition of Immersive Art and XR at 26 Leake Street (with further LFF Expanded pieces at the National Theatre and BFI Southbank) and specially curated programmes of LFF films screening at 9 partner cinemas around the UK, and on BFI Player from 14 – 23 October. This year’s programme of 167 features, 8 Series and 20 Immersive and XR works, as well as high-profile Screen Talks, a programme of events for industry delegates and immensely popular LFF For Free events were attended in person by 189.2k audience members, while 101.9k attended the Festival online. Attendees at the 9* regional partner cinemas are 33% higher than in 2021, while occupancy across the Festival’s London in-cinema screenings and events has increased to 87% (up slightly from 84% in 2018 and 83% in 2019).

OCTOBER 13: Director Yemi Bamiro and Ed Keazor attend the “Super Eagles ’96” world premiere during the 66th BFI London Film Festival at the Curzon Soho on October 13, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty Images for BFI)

BFI London Film Festival Director Tricia Tuttle, who this year marked her final time at the helm of the LFF said: “From the Opening Night Gala World Premiere of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical through to our Closing Gala with the European Premiere of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, there was a strong feeling of celebration and community across the 66th BFI London Film Festival. This was a reflection of the extraordinary quality of the films, series and immersive works, but also created by the buzz of packed houses seeing these works together, supported by the presence filmmakers and talent from around the world. UK audiences are not quick to give standing ovations and we witnessed a few this year – hearteningly for a number of debut feature films which world premiered this year, as well as for big emotional moments in our Gala venue at Royal Festival Hall. The Festival exists to help create awareness and space for wider range of internationally and formally diverse work to reach audiences and we hope this is a sign of brighter times to come for independent cinemas everywhere in the coming months.”   

The winners of this year’s BFI London Film Festival Awards were announced during an online ceremony on the final day of the Festival. They were chosen by juries, presided over by Tanya Seghatchian (Official Competition), Nana Mensah (First Feature Competition), Roberto Minervini (Documentary Competition), Misan Harriman (Immersive and XR Competition) and Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor (Short Film Competition). The winners of the competitive awards were:

  • CORSAGE (dir. Marie Kreutzer) – Best Film Award in Official Competition
  • 1976 (dir. Manuela Martelli) – Sutherland Award in First Feature Competition
  • ALL THAT BREATHES (dir. Shaunak Sen) – Grierson Award in Documentary Competition
  • AS MINE EXACTLY (Lead artist Charlie Shackleton) –  Immersive Art and XR Award
  • I HAVE NO LEGS, AND I MUST RUN (dir. Yue Li) – Short Film Award in Short Film Competition

Placing the audience at the heart of the Festival, the winners of this year’s Audience Awards, as chosen by members of the public who saw the films during the Festival (including at UK-wide venues), were:

  • BLUE BAG LIFE (dirs. Lisa Selby, Rebecca Hirsch Lloyd-Evans, Alex Fry) – Audience Award, Feature
  • DROP OUT (dir. Ade Femzo) – Audience Award, Short

LFF Expanded, the Immersive Art and XR strand of the BFI London Film Festival showcased a rich selection of works from creators at the forefront of emerging technologies, including interactive virtual reality, screen-based installations, augmented reality, mixed reality, immersive audio experience and live performance. For the second year, the programme was presented at 26 Leake Street, the award-winning venue located in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel, while additional projects were presented at the National Theatre and at BFI Southbank. LFF Expanded brought together 20 projects from 17 countries across the world and shone a light on some of the most urgent social and political issues of the present time, with works exploring vital topics such as women’s reproductive rights, the climate emergency, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the nuclear threat and the opioid crisis. Highlights included the World Premiere, commissioned by the LFF, of Guy Maddin’s HAUNTED HOTEL: A MELODRAMA IN AUGMENTED REALITY; a multi-sensory, interactive virtual reality experience IN PURSUIT OF REPETITIVE BEATS; the powerful virtual reality documentary ON THE MORNING YOU WAKE (TO THE END OF THE WORLD); and AS MINE EXACTLY, a powerful virtual reality live performance from filmmaker Charlie Shackleton.

A programme of high-profile Screen Talks were given by talent on both sides of the camera including directors Alejandro González IñárrituMia Hansen-Løve and Noah Baumbach,andon-screen talent Janelle MonáeJennifer LawrenceBill Nighy and Aubrey Plaza. These are now available to watch, in full and for free, on the BFI’s YouTube Channel.

LFF for Free returned to the Festival with a fun, thought-provoking and creative mix of events for audiences of all tastes – from a family friendly animation workshop and thought-provoking talks to short film screenings (in person and online) and DJ nights – with all events available totally free of charge, ensuring the Festival is accessible to the widest range of audiences possible. Special guests included director Asif Kapadia and choreographer Akram Khan talking about their new collaboration CREATURE and a series of Salon discussions presented by Sight and Sound featuring filmmakers Guy MaddinHlynur PálmasonMark JenkinClement Virgo and Soudade Kaadan.

The Surprise Film was the European Premiere of the uber-smart satirical horror THE MENU, starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, and directed by Mark Mylod (Succession), who took part in a Q&A following the screening with co-writer Seth Reiss. THE MENU sees a couple, played by Taylor-Joy and Hoult, travel to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where Ralph Fiennes’ Chef Slowik has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

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The LFF’s Industry Programme comprised in person discussions and panel events exploring the creative and business life-cycle for making films and screen work, welcoming more than 3,200 industry and press delegates from around the world.  The industry programme was supported by event partners including Directors UK, The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, FOCUS, Women in Film & TV UK, ScreenSkills, and Doc Society along with existing partner Film London who returned with the established Production Finance Market. This year’s Market opened with a keynote interview with BFI Chief Executive Ben Roberts and Film London Chief Executive/British Film Commissioner Adrian Wootton discussing the BFI’s new 10-year strategy to support the economic growth and creative development of UK screen culture. International talent agents, festival directors/programmers, producers, sales agents, distributors, and press also attended the LFF Works-in-Progress showcase which presented nine new fiction feature films and feature documentaries by UK-based filmmakers. The projects attracted strong interest with business outcomes being tracked as they make their way to market.

The industry programme opened up opportunities for new business, learning and networking for industry delegates working across the wider screen industries as well as policy makers. These included an LFF Connects conversation with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia, acclaimed choreographer Akram Khan, cinematographer Daniel Landin and editor Sylvie Landra discussing collaboration across dance and film on CREATUREKapadia’s new film based on Khan’s original concept and choreography, which received its World Premiere at the Festival. There were Spotlight Conversations with leading Italian producer Lorenzo Mieli (The Young Pope, Bones And All), and Fionnuala Jamison, Managing Director of MK2 Films (The Worst Person in the WorldPortrait of a Lady on Fire), one of the most renowned integrated production, sales and distribution companies in the world, based in France.

Other highlights were an event exploring the different creative processes of screenwriters across film and television with Alexander Cary (Homeland, A Spy Among Friends) and Rebecca Lenkiewicz (She Said, Ida), as well as sessions looking at the challenges and opportunities in feature film development; the anatomy of getting a first feature off the ground with the team behind THE ORIGINaward-winningpioneering filmmakers from historically marginalised backgrounds exploring authentic authorship; how cinemas are working to attract audiences back to the big screen in the wake of pandemic fuelled home entertainment film watching; and unveiling of the creative and technological process behind Guy Maddin’s HAUNTED HOTEL.

Committed to supporting UK screen-based businesses and talent and increasing opportunities for international collaboration, the 2022 Industry Programme featured a variety of talent development initiatives including: the third edition of the Works-in-Progress showcase for UK films, television and immersive work; the LFF Critics Mentorship Programme; and NETWORK@LFF.

BFI LFF Education, supported by Netflix and Old Possum’s Practical Trust, gave young people of all ages a range of opportunities to engage with the Festival to develop their creative and critical skills. On 16 October, young people aged 16-25 took part in the Film Academy Day, a programme of events specifically aimed at helping young, aspiring filmmakers learn from industry professionals, as well as their peers. In addition to this, a curated selection of short films called #GenerationNow were made available on BFI Player and the BFI Facebook channels. Young people could also hear directly from the filmmakers as part of the SCENE series live on the BFI Film Academy Instagram, while through BFI Film Academy accreditation, 350 young emerging filmmakers gained access to in-person press and industry screenings as well as Film Academy panels and networking events. The Film Academy Young Programmers also curated four themed online events as part of LFF for Free and ROALD DAHL’S MATILDA THE MUSICAL was presented in partnership with Into Film at the Royal Festival Hall to more than 1,000 school students.

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