Emma Thompson, Daniel Craig, Harry Styles: London film festival brings out the big guns

Opening on Wednesday, this year’s festival will host 164 feature films, from Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Autumn is the cinephile’s favourite season, with back-to-back film festivals across a number of global destinations. But for UK-based film enthusiasts, domestic events take centre stage. And of those, the London film festival has established itself as an audience-facing home for the biggest and buzziest hits of the festival circuit.

Opening on Wednesday, this year’s LFF will host a total of 164 feature films, 24 of which are world premieres. There will also be screenings in 10 other cities around the UK, and a digital programme of up to 20 titles available for online streaming on the BFI Player – marking a huge growth in the festival’s reach following formatting and strategic changes during the years of Covid-induced restrictions.

Glitzy premieres include Matthew Warchus’s hotly anticipated opening film Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, an adaptation of the Olivier-winning stage musical starring Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch. The festival regularly opens with a high-profile premiere, with Jeymes Samuel’s Bafta-winning western The Harder They Fall kicking off the event last year.

Other premieres include Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion adaptation of Pinocchio, Asif Kapadia’s Creature, and the European premiere of Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery starring Daniel Craig. There is also Fridtjof Ryder’s Inland starring Mark Rylance and Jamie Adams’s She Is Love starring Sam Riley, while series premieres include Hugo Blick’s The English and Jez Butterworth’s Mammals.

Additional galas will draw the world’s biggest stars to the South Bank, with red carpets scheduled for the likes of Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All starring Timothée Chalamet, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and Michael Grandage’s My Policeman with Harry Styles. Lectures by Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Lawrence, Bill Nighy and more are big gets.

Harry Styles in My Policeman.
Harry Styles in Michael Grandage’s My Policeman. Photograph: Parisa Taghizadeh/© 2022 Amazon Content Services LLC

In total, eight films will compete for this year’s best film award, which last year went to Iranian road trip movie Hit the Road. On the list are Cannes standout Corsage and Venice Grand Jury prize winner Saint Omer. Meanwhile, the lineup has garnered praise for its diversity, with around 34% of the films having ethnically diverse directors or co-directors and 41% having female or non-binary directors and creators.

This is thanks in part to festival director Tricia Tuttle, who has long prioritised the fair representation of female directors and been credited for putting the LFF on to the international stage. But this year marks Tuttle’s last as BFI festivals director, as she announced on Monday that she will be stepping down after 10 years at the organisation – leaving an opening for a successor to build on her gains.

Speaking about her time at the helm of the LFF and BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ film festival, Tuttle said it has been a privilege to lead the events “and to be a senior leader in an organisation that has shaped me as a passionate film fan”.

She added: “I took the role knowing that I believe in cultural renewal. I came in to make an impact quickly, with an aim to open up our festivals to more people and then pass the baton. And I could not be more proud of what we have achieved in these five years, especially given the absolutely wild challenges we have faced. I am leaving on a high and with so much love for the people and the work of the organisation.”

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts said Tuttle was the “driving force behind the London film festival’s transformation over the last five years” and that the festival “could not be more vital and important than right now”.

• The BFI London film festival runs from 5-16 October.


Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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