As the movie-centric affair makes a triumphant return, the festival’s director, Tricia Tuttle, sits down to talk all things film.
This year has been all about attempting to return to normal. Because of that, the grand award shows and headline-making events of the year have slowly been making their return – albeit in a reduced and COVID-safe manner. And, the next affair to do so? The BFI London Film Festival.
Synonymous with spotlighting the best in the cinema scene whilst also showcasing some of the most hyped-up films of the year, the prestigious event is making its triumphant return this month after turning to an almost fully digital display during the isolating pandemic. And, with excitement-stirring titles such as Spencer and Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II set to grace BFI’s screens, anticipation is beginning to swell surrounding the affair.
When speaking on how this year’s festivities have adapted to the times, festival director Tricia Tuttle claimed, “It’s been a process of constant reworking, remodelling and becoming experts on COVID safety protocols- this is why we are tired! But, it’s also forced us to innovate and use digital platforms more creatively. Last year’s festival was 80% digital and 20% physical, and while we are getting back to the live large scale festival people know this year, we are bringing back some of the digital access points that made the festival more accessible last year. The ratio is about 20% digital, and 80% live this year in terms of programming.”
In the run-up to the BFI London Film Festival, the director sat down with Wonderland to talk the most exciting films showing at this year’s festival and how it has adapted to the pandemic. Head below to enjoy our interview with Tricia Tuttle…
How are you and how has this past year been for you?
Good! I am feeling positive, excited and tired with less than a week before the LFF! The last year has been tough for everyone, but I’m aware of how lucky I am.
You are looking to celebrate the 65th year of the BFI London Film Festival, what exciting things are in store for this year?
We are opening with the world premiere of The Harder The Fall by Jeymes Samuel, who is a London-born filmmaker. It’s a fizzing, witty and stylish Western and an ode to African American cowboys with a show-stopping cast, many of whom will attend, including Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King. And, it’s produced by Shawn Carter.
There are over 160 feature films and 75 short films screening from 77 countries across the world – all genres, styles, themes. So, there is something for everyone.
In 2020 we launched a programme of XR and Immersive Art (VR, AR, MR), called LFF Expanded, which sits alongside our film programme. We were forced to do this online-only last year because of the pandemic, but this year we host a major physical exhibition at 26 Leake Street just behind Waterloo Station. The exhibition really shows how developed immersive and interactive art has become in the last few years; it’s not about the technology but about world-class artistry and stories and experiences that pull the viewer into the middle of the work. I would encourage people to experiment and see something here. Not only are the works of art excellent and range from hard-hitting social commentary to playful and exploratory, but the show also gives you a real vision of a world to come, where film, tv, games, immersive might continue to converge and cross-fertilise.
COVID must have caused you to have to adapt the festival? How has the pandemic been for you?
It’s been a process of constant reworking, remodelling and becoming experts on COVID safety protocols- this is why we are tired! But, it has also forced us to innovate and use digital platforms more creatively. Last year’s festival was 80% digital and 20% physical, and while we are getting back to the live large scale festival people know this year, we are bringing back some of the digital access points that made the festival more accessible last year. The ratio is about 20% digital, and 80% live this year in terms of programming.
Has this adaptation been successful, surely bringing a wider online audience?
It’s certainly true that the changes we made last year have opened up the festival to new audiences. The digital screenings saw 40% of audiences last year coming from outside of Greater London, and we are working with 10 cinema venues across the UK, which take a great selection of festival titles to audiences in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Are you going to continue streaming the festival online and across the UK?
Yes, we have a selection of 27 features, which are premiering during the LFF on our digital platform, BFI Player, and over 40 short films which are free to view for the 12 days of the festival – a great way to discover the next generation of filmmakers. And, alongside this, there are a few terrific programmes of free treasures from the archives, such as our programme of Japanese silent films, Around Japan With A Movie Camera, which is shot between 1901 and 1913. They have been beautifully restored by my colleagues in the BFI National Archive and will be free of charge on BFI Player for the 12 days of the festival with musical accompaniment.
What made you chose the specific Headline Gala films?
Headline Galas are films that have really knocked us out and that play big, many of which are sure to become major awards season talking points. Most have A list talent and established international directors, and we expect these to be big red carpet moments, which all ticket buyers are invited to!
We’re excited about so many of them, but I’ll shout out Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast here, which is a moving tribute to his childhood hometown. And, while it’s a reflection on the late 60s when the Troubles erupted, it’s also a film about love and has a great deal of joy. I’m also thrilled that we can screen Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II with Tilda Swinton, Tilda’s real-life daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, and Richard Ayoade. Plus, the film so many people are talking about, Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart and new work from Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson. There is so much to be buzzing about!
The Mayor of London is presenting a new film by Clio Barnard, what kind of journey can we expect throughout this film?
It’s absolutely gorgeous – a film set in Bradford about two people who find unexpected love. It stars the incredible Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar. While it feels very real and grounded, it’s also full of real tenderness and light.