The British Film Institute’s London Film Festival is adopting a hybrid online-physical model for its 64th edition, it was announced Thursday. There will be 50 virtual festival premieres for audiences to consume from home and up to 12 previews of upcoming films that will screen in cinemas across the U.K.
Every film will be presented with an intro or Q&A and there will be screen talks with major filmmakers and actors.
As a one-off for this year’s edition, audiences will replace the festival’s official jury. They will vote on audience awards in four categories – fiction feature, documentary feature, short film, and XR (extended reality). The winners will be announced in a live virtual ceremony on the final weekend of the festival.
While the festival will not designate gala or competitive sections, it will continue with its themed strands that include Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Family, Treasures and Experimenta. The new XR and immersive strand will take place online and will be free to access.
The annual IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI that grants a first or second time British writer, director, or writer/director £50,000 ($62,360), continues this year.
Industry and media delegates will have virtual access to the program that includes virtual buyers’ and sellers’ meetings, and talks and events. The Critics Mentorship Program, designed to encourage a more representative range of critical voices, and new talent programs, run in conjunction with BFI Network, BFI Film Academy and BAFTA, will also return. American Express continues as the festival’s lead sponsor.
BFI London Film Festival director, Tricia Tuttle, said: “Like many other live events around the world, we’ve had to make changes to our plans in response to a global pandemic, factoring in safety concerns and restrictions – some known, some still unclear. But as we’ve undergone this planning we’ve also witnessed historical international protests, an urgent reminder of just how much we need to do to combat racism and inequality.”
Some cinemas in England will reopen July 4, some on July 31, and in Scotland on July 15, with Wales and Northern Ireland yet to be confirmed. Given that the festival runs Oct. 7 through 18, the BFI is clearly being extra cautious with physical screenings.
On Wednesday, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, issued a warning about “a serious threat of a deadly second wave.”
“It was vital to us that we get back to cinemas, and are looking forward to working with independent and cultural venues across the U.K. who are such an essential part of our film ecosystem,” Tuttle added. “The virtual LFF programs and these cinema screenings take the festival out across the U.K., giving people opportunities to engage in different ways.”
The full program will be announced at a virtual launch on Sept. 8.