The BFI Future Film Festival is the UK’s largest festival for young, emerging filmmakers. The festival returns this February, with four days packed with events and screenings taking place both online and in-venue at the BFI Southbank, all of which are designed to help talented young filmmakers aged 16 to 25 break into the film and screen industries.
As the festival prepares to kick off, we asked the BFI Film Academy Young Programmers (all aged 25 and under) to pick their favourite films and industry events from this year’s programme.
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Through the Looking Glass
These films shine a light on human interaction with technology, providing a nuanced and fresh look at how it can seep into our subconscious, for better or worse.
Exploring the value of vulnerability and introspection, HOMEBOUND and Life’s Meeting Room highlight virtual spaces where strangers can express their most intimate needs and desires while surviving in a locked-down world.
@scrollalice uses experimental audio-visuals to confront our addiction to virtual validation and the trepidation we face when this becomes threatened.
Being Black unravels multiple narratives influenced by the hashtag #beingblack – demonstrating a shared human experience captured in a virtual space. Both One Call Away and Picking Up on Things examine how alienating what is considered a universally shared experience can feel.
Screenlife: How to Tell Stories Using Only Your Phone or Computer
What I love about the screen industry is that it’s forever evolving – constantly responding to new advancements in technology and searching for new ways of storytelling.
A recently popularised innovation is Screenlife technology, which is a style of filmmaking that involves screen-recordings from a desktop or a mobile phone. This super accessible format has been used for experimental projects, shorts and even full-length feature films.
I’m in favour of anything that can liberate people’s minds creatively when making films. Screenlife offers opportunities to develop characters out of subtle details in your digital movements such as the emails in their Unsent folder, the missed Skype call and their relationship with the internet. It encourages so much potential for creativity in building layers of depth to your stories, allowing narratives to unravel in a way you’ve never seen before.
Film strand and event picked by: Beth Privitera
In Someone Else’s Shoes
For any film fans or budding filmmakers, the strand In Someone Else’s Shoes is a must-see: it’s a diverse strand full of honesty, heart and insight. Sometime, Somewhere is a sharp 60 seconds of stop-motion, Exhale is a stylised string of internal monologues about the emotional burden of racism, and The Last Page is an understated portrait of a bookshop owner. Other films in the strand include Bratus, COCOABEAN and The Boy & The Balloon, their forms varying from charming black and white to lyrical spoken word.
So whether you want to watch a film that spotlights underrepresented experiences or one which provides fresh insights on an age-old story, In Someone Else’s Shoes will offer something for you.
Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? Done, all without leaving your seat.
How to Direct Actors
After making my acting debut as Sheep #3 in the school nativity, I decided I probably wasn’t cut out for the world of performing. Twenty years on, while my chances of crossing over into acting are still slim, I’ve fumbled my way into the world of directing. In between browsing actors’ profiles and scribbling in screenplay margins, often I want to be able to refer back to the basics and ask myself, “OK, what should I actually… do?” So this session with acting coach Judith Weston, who’s trained the likes of Taika Waititi and Ava DuVernay, sounds like an absolute dream.
Film strand and event picked by: Clodagh Chapman
Hearts on Fire
As a queer person maybe it’s surprising that I’m recommending a strand of five films about straight love BUT if you’re into sharp, well-edited (Prangover) and whimsically experimental (The Butterfly) commentaries on gender roles, there may just be something here for you.
Miriam Lazrak’s portrayal of Butterflies in the Stomach was comically relatable (to all genders) and I think my favourite moment in the whole strand is when Marius burps out an actual butterfly from his stomach. Wet & Soppy also offers an animated glimpse into catching feelings in public spaces, but the standout for me is Heart Failure, an EDM musical comedy about the realities of Gen Z dating, which has been nominated for Best Film, Best Director AND Best New Talent!
Fighting on film: A Screen Fighting Workshop
The best thing about in-person events is getting to do something you can’t experience virtually: a screen fighting workshop is just that.
Hosted by actor and martial artist Mark Strange, with demonstrations by stunt performer Mark Sears, this event promises a hands-on introduction to choreographing, filming and editing a fight sequence.
I am super drawn to this event because the field is completely new to me and I would love the opportunity to get a peek of the making of action shoots. I see this workshop as the perfect opportunity to leave your comfort zone.
Film strand and event picked by: Erick Jackaman
On the surface, Kena and Ziki could not be more different. What they share, however, is the desire to break free from the cultural traditions preventing them from loving openly and honestly. Daughters of opposing politicians in a conservative Nairobi neighbourhood, the star-crossed lovers face deep-rooted prejudice and physical abuse from the community that they once called home. Inevitably, they must choose between love and safety.
The film offers a unique insight into the evils of prejudice, and I feel that everyone should take the time to watch it. Many choose to fixate on the past, but Rafiki is a film that looks forward to a brighter, more tolerant future.
Rafiki is bold. Rafiki is authentic. Rafiki had me in a puddle of tears on a Tuesday afternoon.
Young Programmers Present: Girlhood Uninterrupted
Clueless about what to see at the festival? Well, you’re in luck. Why not relive your teens at a poster-making workshop and lose yourself in a scrapbook dedicated to Janis Ian? I know I will! Sit back and relax for an hour-long, uninterrupted discussion about your favourite ‘chick flicks’ and the girls who taught us everything we know.
I can’t wait to join this conversation around the films that defined an era for teenage girls, and share the love for films that I feel aren’t always given the credit they deserve.
And remember, it’s not a regular event: it’s a cool one.
Film and event picked by: Hazel George
We Are Not Our Trauma
Mental health issues, particularly among young people, are one of society’s biggest challenges today. Audiovisual mediums, like film, are the perfect forums for us to share experiences and learn to empathise with each other.
Explore how complex friendships can impact someone struggling in +1 and Traffic. Discover how objects can be mental triggers for trauma in Stolen. and Thought Cabinet, and see how mental conditions like depression and PTSD can exacerbate societal pressures on girls and young women in Backpack and You Look Fine. Meanwhile, Nestor explores OCD through stunning visuals and a captivating score.
Whatever your personal experiences are, these moving films are sure to strike a chord with you.
What’s the Score? How to Become a Film and TV Composer
Ask most directors at which point in the editing process they can feel the film come alive, and they’re sure to say “when the music is added”! An often overlooked part of the post-production process, a film’s score can greatly elevate emotional tension and act as the thread to tie the story together.
Join a panel of film and TV composers to learn about what’s needed to become a composer for the screen. It’s not all about just tinkling the ivories. Join us for this online event where you’ll not only learn more about the creative side of scoring but also the day to day logistics of working as a film/TV composer!
Film strand and event picked by: Nick Willis
In My Skin
Our bodies, these unique but fragile shells, are perhaps the most important relationship we’ll ever have; they are wholly our own and yet the world often devises a way to lay claim to them.
Blackmael and Wash Day were particularly striking for me as a black woman – navigating a racist world in a black body sometimes feels like a losing battle, so the display of the simple act of loving it regardless felt revolutionary.
Carry Me In and Silvering explore how vulnerable we are against change, Nudity reveals how we can try to control this vulnerability, while Joychild embraces it intimately.
This strand inspires us to explore and interrogate our bodies in all their beautiful and messy glory. The more they feel like home, the less it matters what anyone else thinks.
Backstage Presents: How to Hire Cast and Crew with Disabilities and Neuro-Diversity for Your Projects
I’ve always believed diversity extends beyond the characters on our screens. Real diversity for me is holistic and inclusive – it means casting disabled people in disabled roles, it means we campaign for accessible writers’ and crews’ rooms. Creating spaces that allow talent to foster will take us real and honest work. So I’m really excited for the opportunity to hear about all the different ways we as an industry can work towards this.
Backstage presents an amazing panel of filmmakers, campaigners and professionals, to really dive into the subject of authentic representation, as well as practical tips for working as or with disabled creatives.
Film strand and event picked by: Ramatoulie Bobb
A Family Affair
I’ve always loved films about family, and how the term can mean different things to all of us: stress, comfort or often – as shown in Fart Car – both. Scenes of relatives trying to connect over the phone in Bud and SANTI, or being too close for comfort in Mirrored Families and This Camera Is Broken resonate even more after the experience of lockdowns. Meanwhile, Lone Wolves and Hope and Her Two Daughters display how aspiring filmmakers can use family dynamics to explore important issues. Just like each family, each film is unique, and I can’t wait to see them on the big screen!
Pixar’s Turning Red: Meet the filmmakers
Everyone has that awkward phase, when we were constantly embarrassed and blushing. In Pixar’s latest movie, Turning Red (2022), that gets a tad more extreme – whenever protagonist Mei gets excited, she transforms into a red panda!
Director Domee Shi is no stranger to stories about family and growing up, having begun work with the animations company as a story artist for Inside Out (2015).
I’ve grown up watching Pixar, and as an adult still love how their films celebrate identity and unity between generations.
With producer Lindsay Collins (Finding Dory! Wall-E!) joining Shi in the interactive session, it’s going to be an unmissable opportunity for any budding storyteller to ask about their creative process.
Film strand and event picked by: Ruby Murphy
The Funny Side
Comedy can make hundreds come together in a unified laughter. These elegantly crafted shorts combine this power with thought-provoking subtlety.
The Gospel According to Gail serves up a freshness we don’t often see with chucklesome stereotypes. The Last Song fuses haplessness with burning passions to create a dark yet hilarious outcome. This Time with Feeling masterfully blends industry metas with a hysterically entertaining protagonist, and the simple comedy of CRIMINAL$ actually has us rolling with laughter!
We also dip into the animated gems of comedy: Perfect and This Is Why Girls Go to the Bathroom Together embed sweet aesthetic in endearing thoughts, while Divination Dave takes home the most-experimental medal from this strand. Untitled Project integrates both these traits with incredible flair. Dive into this strand with a carefree attitude!
What Video Essays Can Teach You About Filmmaking
Ever heard that line “you don’t need fancy equipment to make films, just a phone and ideas?” It’s true! Well, sort of…
‘Practice makes perfect’ merges into low-budget filmmaking for sure. But without a team or enough resources, it can be off-putting to start making that first magnum opus of yours! That’s where video essays can come in: they offer brilliant advice on how to articulate our thoughts and filmmaking concepts.
This event promises to teach the essentials of this alternative medium, as well as how video essays can improve your film knowledge. I have zero doubt that this session will equip you (and I) with every basic tool for filmmaking that we need!
Film strand and event picked by: Shadman Kabir
La Mif (2021)
To me the magic of films lies in how, for an hour or two, they can take me deep into the lives of people with experiences completely different to my own. That’s exactly what Fred Baillif’s La Mif feels like.
Made with non-professional actors, La Mif paints a raw, honest picture of growing up in care homes in Switzerland. Each character is a portrait of youth, each with their own struggles, different strengths, angst and anxiety, as well as moments of joy and friendship that will resonate with you no matter who you are and where you’re watching from.
How to Tell Stories Inspired by Real Life Experiences
‘Write what you know’, however endlessly repeated, is a decent advice. After all, if the story you’re telling has actually happened, people will find it easier to buy into it, right?
Using real stories brings its own few suitcases’ worth of baggage though. From big questions such as how to safely handle someone’s trauma, to little things like explaining to your brother why a character has the same name as him, adaption of a real-life story needs tons of sensitivity. Good thing Fred Baillif will be on hand to tell us how it’s done!
Film and event picked by: Siavash Minoukadeh
Filming the Elements: Getting into Nature Documentary
Prepare to be inspired as you enter the world of nature documentary with this exciting panel of seasoned filmmakers.
First up is Eleanor Hamilton, a wildlife camera operator with an in-depth knowledge of British natural history. Then, there’s the one and only Jack Harries, a creative storyteller and influencer who has collaborated with the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Barack Obama to raise awareness about climate issues through film. Finally, there’s Iain Mitchell, a director and producer who has worked on the likes of Stormborn (2020), a BBC2 series which focused on the struggles of animals in harsh northern habitats.
Citizens of Earth
Great environmental films can reconnect us to the nature in an entertaining and digestible way, and the films in this strand are no exception.
Astralium provides a delightfully animated story of one girl’s meticulously crafted ecosystem. FORESIGHT’s Norwegian nature reservation provided the setting for a woman who is able to change time. Metamorphism literally grounds us with its comparison between humans and rocks when put under pressure. Pengugee’s Pingu-esque animation follows the story of a refugee penguin moving to Leeds. Finally, Suburb captures a fox’s point of view as it struggles to survive in London’s concrete jungle.
Film strand and event picked by: Zahra Coulthard