The C&TH Guide To The BFI London Film Festival (& The Best Films Showing In 2023)

By Olivia Emily

8 months ago

Movie magic in the capital


The BFI London Film Festival kicks off tomorrow (4 October), bringing a jam packed roster of movie magic to the capital. Whether you’re planning on going in person or you’re wondering how (and when) to catch the big hitters for yourself, here’s everything to know about the BFI London Film Festival 2023.

The Ultimate Guide To The BFI London Film Festival 2023

Facade of BFI Southbank, the leading repertory cinema in the London, UK.

What Is The BFI London Film Festival?

The BFI London Film Festival is the capital’s annual movie extravaganza and the UK’s largest film festival, now in its 67th year. It takes place over two weeks in October, and is known for its opening and closing red carpet galas, which feature the premieres of the opening and closing films. This year, the opening film is the International Premiere of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, while closing is the World Premiere of Kibwe Tavares and Daniel Kaluuya’s The Kitchen.

Known for its diverse and accessible programme of events, expect the screening of 252 titles (comprising features, shorts, XR works and series) from 92 countries in 79 languages. Film screenings are open to the public (with tickets), with a plethora of partner venues also hosting screenings in London and across the UK, from Cardiff to Newcastle. Plus, thanks to LFF Expanded, 14 new Immersive Art and Extended Reality works will be presented at new venues, from the Oxo Tower to Outernet London, alongside free augmented reality walks around the city.

The Festival will culminate with the LFF’s Competition on the final day (15 October), awarding four of the cinematic talents behind the films screened across the fortnight, alongside the ever-popular Audience Award. The five winning films will be screened again on 15 October after being declared the winners.

 

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This year is Kristy Matheson’s first year as BFI London Film Festival Director. She says: ‘In preparing this 2023 festival, my colleagues and I have been endlessly buoyed by the artistry, ideas and talented individuals and communities that have come into our orbit. It’s now time to share all this wonder and we can’t wait for audiences to experience it all this October here in London and across the UK with LFF on Tour and online at BFI Player.’

Ben Roberts, BFI CEO, added: ‘Cinema has reclaimed its status as a cultural force, an art-form that can spark a conversation around the world, and which will resound loudly through the wide-ranging lineup of essential cinema that our 67th edition of the BFI London Film Festival will offer. I am particularly excited that the Festival will be sharing the exhilarating experience of new work from global filmmakers alongside so many debut features from the UK this year.

‘I congratulate Kristy on her first LFF programme and the talented team who continue to find creative ways to reach new audiences, including through our free programme,’ he added. ‘We couldn’t do it without our loyal supporters, including our principal partner of 14 years American Express, so huge thanks to them and our many other sponsors, funders, partners, including the UK Government and the UK’s National Lottery players who do so much to enable both the Festival and our work throughout the year.’

What To See In 2023

Films

There’s a broad variety of films on offer this year (as is typical of the LFF), including major established directors alongside 47 debut features. Every film and series will screen to UK audiences for the very first time, with LFF 2023 boasting 29 world premieres, seven international premieres and 30 European premieres. Here are the big hitters we’re looking forward to.

Saltburn

Talks

The line up of Screen Talks hasn’t been announced yet. Come back here or visit whatson.bfi.org.uk to stay up to date.

Art

A new element of the LFF will launch this year: Immersive Art and Extended Realities, running 6–22 October 2023 at Bargehouse at OXO Tower Wharf and Gallery@OXO. Nine projects from British and international artists will invite audiences to explore and experience new ways of telling stories on screen, with a further series of works displayed for free. Plus, two free augmented reality walks will launch at Outernet London and Science Gallery London.

Free Events

Many of the events at the London Film Festival are free to attend. The LFF For Free programme includes screenings, Q&As, talks, seminars and even club nights. Highlights include:

  • A preview screening of Loki Season 2: catch the first two episodes, plus an introduction from director Dan DeLeeuw and exec-producer Kevin R Wright. 5 October
  • Little White Lies 100 exhibition: a show at the OXO Tower hosted by film magazine Little White Lies, marking its 100th issue. 4 October
  • ‘Lights, Camera, Action!’ talks: listen to lunchtime talks from the likes of Saltburn choreographer Polly Bennett (5 October) and Hoard’s intimacy coordination Louise Kempton (10 October).
  • LFF Expanded: a programme of immersive art and augmented reality, including an audiovisual electronica performance about a future world (7 October) and an immersive exhibition on Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin exploring themes of desire and death (from 4 October).
  • The Film Quiz: a big film quiz at BFI Southbank. 11 October

Where?

The BFI London Film Festival predominantly takes place on London’s South Bank at BFI Southbank and The Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. However, there are also a number of partner venues in London and across the UK.

The London partner cinemas are:

  • BFI Southbank
  • BFI IMAX
  • Vue West End
  • Prince Charles Cinema
  • Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
  • Curzon Soho
  • Curzon Mayfair

Festival venues across the UK are:

  • Broadway Cinema, Nottingham
  • Chapter, Cardiff
  • Glasgow Film Theatre
  • HOME, Manchester
  • MAC, Birmingham
  • Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
  • Showroom Cinema, Sheffield,
  • Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
  • Watershed, Bristol

Plus, a curated programme of 14 free short films will be available digitally across the UK on BFI Player for the duration of the Festival.

When?

The London Film Festival will run from 4–15 October 2023, with Immersive Art and Extended Realities running from 6–22 October 2023.

How?

There are still some tickets available for the 2023 BFI London Film Festival, running 4–15 October 2023, including films not yet fully booked and new ticket releases for screenings that were previously sold out. Book online at whatson.bfi.org.uk