Running from 15 to 18 February, this year’s edition of the BFI Future Film Festival includes four jam-packed days of screenings, masterclasses, workshops and networking opportunities – all for young and emerging screen creatives.
There are in-person screenings and events at BFI Southbank, as well as a globally accessible online programme, and for the first time this year, in collaboration with Film Academy partners, a UK-wide programme will take the festival’s spirit nationwide, providing young people across the country with a chance to get involved.
Our BFI Film Academy Young Programmers, all aged 25 and under, play an essential role in the festival. They help shape and curate the programme, and you’ll see them around the festival, hosting events, taking part in panel discussions and getting stuck in. With things about to get underway, we asked each of them what they’re most excited about.
Film programme strands
I’m increasingly interested in how we represent the digital world on screen – especially for Gen Z who grew up with the internet. All of the films in the Digital strand critique the online sphere, some through humour and others with a more critical tone. Making It Up explores how the attention economy of social media feeds off female insecurity, while Seeing Read considers – in a light-hearted manner – the modern torture of being left on ‘read’ by your crush. Crate Dog humorously warns us to be careful what you order on the internet, while Loveshots compares the rush of falling in love with the dizzying new world of VR.
All the films are highly relatable, especially if you’re chronically online like I am.
– Cici Peng
Family shapes our identities and provides a sense of belonging throughout our lives. Unfortunately, families can also cause us pain and heartbreak. These films delve into the raw and intricate tapestry of modern family life. From cathartic sibling stories such as Are You Okay? and Cariad Brawdol to the heart-wrenching How to Build a Life, the filmmakers handle the powerful connection between siblings with tenderness.
The strand invites audiences to reminisce and reflect on the loss of parents (in Last Seen, Lillo, and Stitches and Solace) while also offering viewers a moment to breathe with a hilarious take on the intersection of patriarchy, culture and family (Stir). Documentaries such as 36,000 Words for Love and Please Be Happy highlight the beauty of filmmaking and its power to connect audiences. Simply put, this programme showcases the very best and worst of ‘family’.
– Alex Slater
Laughter is the best medicine, and the more offbeat shorts of this year’s programme provide a delicious antidote to convention with their zany takes on the everyday. Life hurtles past with Anna McGee’s Wild Ride and comes to an abrupt stop with Ghost Insurance, but death doesn’t compare to Double Vodka and Blackcurrant’s hangover. A lobster interns at a pharmaceutical company in Pills! Pills! Pills!, aliens baulk at petrol prices in Galactic Greed, and workplace tension escalates to full-blown combat with the showdowns of Lemonade Stand-Off and The Boss Level.
Those of us who have tried our hands at comedy on screen know that it’s much harder than it looks. This is storytelling at its silliest but most efficient.
– Lucy Fenwick Elliott
Find your next film obsession in this mosaic of genres and formats celebrating intercultural identities. In rare and awe-inspiring ways, each film probes the tensions between alienation and belonging, severance and integration or longing and acceptance.
Away from the Fields employs a contagiously uplifting documentary style. First Night, Rock Springs, The Last September and The Oath tenderly depict unique experiences of migration, from a Korean father in an American deli to a Chinese crew in the wild west. Meanwhile, originality abounds in Dreams of Home and Thank You for Your Souvenir, UK!, which push innovative, spell-binding techniques in daring new directions.
– Lucas Melián
The changing of seasons, the dawn of a new day – nature is a reminder that our everyday lives are guided by an all-encompassing context, a grander scheme of things. Films under this strand are brilliant in showing the anxiety a lot of young people face regarding the climate emergency.
Valèria Cuní’s The Nest and Henry Fish’s The Darkling Fox are allegories of the climate crisis, how people seek out nature to abuse and exploit. Kit Warner’s Lucidity, Edith Morris’ SÆKÝR, and Radheya Jegatheva’s Bird Drone explore the hidden ecosystems within different landscapes. Come and watch these films and gain a sense of kinship with the natural world around us.
– Callista Saputra
Close looks at human relationships have always made for some of the most compelling narratives in film, and this strand explores them in all its glory; whether it’s the complexities of romance in Appetite and When All Is Said and Done, the importance of supportive friendships in Wipe Your Tears on My Ears and Tipsy Sugar Flipping, the impact of new connections in Flowerboy and Deeper Still, or even how our shared fears can unite us in Pallbearer.
In young adulthood, I’ve personally forged some of my most significant connections so I’m eagerly anticipating the exploration of this thematic thread within films crafted entirely by young filmmakers.
I‘m particularly thrilled to see this theme being celebrated against the backdrop of the new and growing relationships being forged at the Future Film Festival.
– Francesca Tomlinson
‘We live in a society.’ It’s a running joke and meme that cuts deep as we lay witness, or likely experience, the many harsh issues which are unavoidable in today’s world.
From the docufiction And How Miserable Is the Home of Evil and wildly original horror The Third Ear to documentary Guardians and coming-of-age story All Up There, the films in this strand find unique ways to reflect on and challenge what we consider normal. There’s a wide variety of artistry and talent on display in the animations too: ROOM, Empty Spaces, To the Brink, Just One Pint, and Blood from a Stone.
– Christina DeConcini
Towns and Cities
The Towns and Cities strand examines what it means to occupy an urban space and how we relate to our environment at a time when it’s more fragile than ever before.
London’s Rocketship Launchers takes a frank, funny and profound look at the structures that shape our world, while Sour Days offers up a very different type of landscape – a mental one. The Skatebook looks at London through one of its most distinctive subcultures. Two films with ‘factory’ in the title, Dog Factory and Dream Factory, aren’t so much about the production process as they are about how our homes make us, and the responsibilities we have towards them because of that. Similarly, South Facing and Dancing in the Shadows look at how we define our identity in a city of thousands of people all trying to do the same.
– Matt Igoe
Young Programmers present: Lunchtime Lives
Tune in from anywhere in the world to watch my fellow Young Programmers and I report from the festival, providing exclusive feedback on each day, from chatting to the young filmmakers attending to picking the brains of industry professionals at the Marketplace to providing our own tips on networking within and navigating the British film industry. It’s the perfect moment for you to attend the festival digitally and ask us any queries you might have in the comments.
– Cici Peng
Navigating Passion, Ambition and Wellbeing in the Screen Industries
Discussions about mental health are becoming increasingly normalised thanks to Gen Z spearheading awareness campaigns (go us!), but the film industry still has a long way to go.
I’m all too familiar with imposter syndrome fuelled by comparisons on social media, and I know I’m not alone – which is why I’m recommending Navigating Passion, Ambition and Wellbeing in the Screen Industries. The event will address the challenges filmmakers face, inviting us into a vital discussion with psychotherapist Rebecca Day who will guide us through insightful strategies to help us pause and learn practical ways to protect our mental health.
– Alex Slater
Young Programmers present: The Movie Quiz!
Whether you’re looking to banish the award nerves, soak up the last of the cinéaste celebrations or just cold-bloodedly compete for some very special prizes, NFT3 at BFI Southbank is the place to be on Sunday afternoon.
For the (lucky) third edition of the Young Programmers’ Movie Quiz, we’ve put together an hour of frantic fun and fierce rivalry as we test your knowledge on all things kino. From action to arthouse, soundtrack to scene, there’s sure to be something for everyone as we bid farewell to the festival in style.
Come with your new film festival friends, or come solo and we’ll find you some teammates.
– Lucy Fenwick Elliott
Beyond Stereotypes: Depicting Authentic Queer Characters on Screen
Every year, in part thanks to the efforts of world-renowned festivals like our very own BFI Flare, we get to see more positive depictions of diverse LGBTQIA+ experiences. It’s a time when every young queer person can find role models on the big screen to offer company, comfort and guidance.
This vital event will unpack how creatives face the challenges of building authentic queer characters, transcending tokenism, tropes and stereotypes, walking the line between immersive storytelling and advocacy, and paying special attention to how queerness intersects with other identities. The conversation will bring together an array of multifaceted creatives – with a wealth of experience across film, TV, theatre and more – who are responsible for some of the most celebrated works starring queer characters in recent years.
– Lucas Melián
Young Programmers present: Decolonising Eco-cinema
With new releases such as Evil Does Not Exist and Killers of the Flower Moon, there has been a rise in the conversation surrounding the intersection of colonialism and environmental exploitation. I decided to curate this panel, alongside Young Programmer Cici Peng, to highlight films that depict environmentalism from a diasporic perspective. I wanted to draw parallels between human and natural migration, what it means to be stripped of one’s home and how that impacts one’s relationship to the climate. This is what we will be talking about in this panel, which aims to question and subvert our own biases regarding our relationship to land.
You don’t need to be an expert in history or activism; simply come with an open mind and join us for a great talk with incredible filmmakers and writers.
– Callista Saputra
Young Programmers present: Parasocial Besties
Whether you find social media a fantastic resource to develop your creativity or feel overwhelmed by how quickly trends change, if you are an aspiring filmmaker, you need to know how to navigate this fast-evolving space. As a Young Programmer, I have used social media to discover new talent and found inspiration in how filmmakers tackle the unique challenge of short-form content.
This event provides an exciting opportunity to hear from creators who have successfully used their platforms to carve out their own spaces, authentic to them. It promises to offer valuable advice to young filmmakers looking for their audience.
– Rosie Bailey
Frank Film Club
As an avid follower of Frank Film Club, a fun podcast crafted by and for film enthusiasts, I’m gearing up to be the first one through the door for this event. We should expect the trademark chemistry and non-judgmental love for lively debates that define the podcast. If you don’t already know, now’s the time to get to know! The three presenters are absolute pros when it comes to dissecting the ins and outs of both films and the industry that makes them.
Our collaborations and the people we meet along the way can really shape who we become as creatives. This event welcomes everyone to join in the laughter, the friendship and discover the potential for personal growth within the connections we build along our creative journeys. How did they do it? Come and find out!
– Francesca Tomlinson
Young Programmers present: Speed Social
We get it: heading into a festival with the intention of making friends (or even finding potential collaborators) can be intimidating, but there’s no better place to meet fellow young creatives than at Speed Social. Whether you’re at the festival alone or with your best friends, be sure to come and debate your favourite films, discover your next screening buddy, and immerse yourself in the Future Film Festival community.
There are three speed dating sessions throughout the weekend at Southbank, so there’s plenty of opportunity to swing by this fun event. Don’t worry: conversation topics will be provided!
– Christina DeConcini
Starting Your Career Journey in UK Soap Operas
If you want to write, but the typical solitary desk-bound image of a scriptwriter doesn’t exactly fit you, the fast-paced, team-oriented world of soaps might just be your spot. This event, led by three industry professionals and hosted by a development executive, aims to give a comprehensive intro to that fast-moving world of production. It’s pretty unlike every other version of filmmaking. Plotlines, production schedules and casting can change on a dime. So, if you’re anything like me (and can’t focus on one task for anything more than five minutes), this might just sound like heaven.
– Matt Igoe
The UK-wide programme
For the first time ever, the BFI Future Film Festival is taking the buzz all across the UK to eight of your local cinemas. Discover highlights of Midlands filmmaking with Broadway cinema offering a glimpse into past and present talent with Q&A sessions featuring this year’s shortlisted filmmakers. In Manchester, immerse yourself in a curated selection of Northern Exposure shorts, handpicked by young local curators. Meanwhile, Sheffield’s Showroom is set to unveil the winner of the DIY Filmmaking challenge, followed by an insightful panel on career routes within the industry.
Head to Northern Ireland for a glimpse into the future of cinema through immersive VR films, and take part in a workshop led by one of this year’s Future Film Festival shortlisted filmmakers on the art of producing. The Glasgow Film Theatre team presents a special screening of programme favourites and exclusive Q&As with filmmakers. In the south east, explore pathways into the film programming industry with two emerging programmers. Bristol will also be showcasing a lineup of festival shorts selected specially by local young programmers, culminating in a networking session.
Over in Cardiff, discover a wealth of new Welsh filmmaking talent, highlights of the Future Film Festival shorts programme and so much more. Wherever you are, get involved and join us in this celebration of young filmmaking excellence.
– Bethan Celeste Davies
Navigating Careers in Animation and Puppetry
The past 12 months have been great for animation, from the Chicken Run sequel to Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Animation and puppetry have long been powerful and expressive forms of storytelling, transporting viewers to imaginative worlds and articulating abstract concepts through stop-motion to CGI.
This panel will be an exciting discussion about an industry that constantly transforms cinematic form. Including guests such as the producer of the hit Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared series, it’s perfect for anyone looking to pursue a career in the animation world.
– Rosie Bailey
The BFI Future Film Festival runs from 15 to 18 February.