We invite you to explore the festival trail – a free public art installation in and around BFI Southbank presented during the 65th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express (6 to 17 October 2021). The festival trail celebrates LFF stories – big or small – throughout the years. Discover artwork from past editions, be transported to the red carpet, learn fun facts about the festival and lose yourself in audience stories.

It’s hard to imagine a time without the BFI London Film Festival, isn’t it? Now picture this scene: 64 years ago, a group of friends were having dinner and lamenting the lack of a film festival in London. Those friends were Sunday Times film critic Dilys Powell and British Film Institute director James Quinn. A little later, the London Film Festival was born. It launched on the South Bank in 1957 at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank). It’s only fitting that this year London’s South Bank will once again be the heart of the film festival experience.

Festival artwork through the ages

Artwork for the 9th, 25th and 8th BFI London Film Festival
Artwork for the 51st, 16th and 49th BFI London Film Festival
Artwork for the 48th, 5th and 40th BFI London Film Festival

Meet the stars

Over the years, we have welcomed a host of incredibly talented individuals, including British and international directors, actors, writers and content creators across all genres. Meet a few of our past guests below.

Your #LFF stories

Earlier this autumn, we asked audiences and staff members to submit their LFF stories. These ranged from funny to awkward moments, and memorable to life-changing events. We hope you enjoy our curated selection of amusing red carpet faux pas, dancing the night away with leading ladies and making lifelong friendships standing in the ticket queue.

Partying with Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton at Battersea Power Station for the 2012 Closing Night Gala party for Great Expectations. I'd joined as an intern two weeks before and naively assumed that this early, very glamorous experience was reflective of everyday life at the BFI!
It’s 1987. An awkward boy has four quid and a dilemma: what to see? Ticket booth guru says Manhunter. I walk in. Michael Mann’s in the audience – how? – and Hannibal Lecter is on the screen. Two hours and one epiphany later, I want more of this. I’m still awkward, but I now work at the BFI.
I will never forget that walk to the front door. I can't remember what was worse: the photographers lifting up their cameras and then instantly lowering them when they realised I was clearly not famous, the scrutiny from the crowd, or my weird arm gestures as I tried to cover up the cat hair. The red carpet is massive, it's longer and wider than I imagined and the whole thing probably took 15 to 20 seconds but felt like an eternity. If I could have lain down and rolled into the Odeon, I would have done. The first thing I saw when I finally entered the cinema was a prosecco stand, I bought two glasses. Then I bought another two. I had not eaten and was so drunk when Greta Gerwig came on stage, I whooped and punched the air. While comfort is still part of the LFF wardrobe plan, I always make sure I'm red carpet presentable.
2018 was the first time I attended the LFF. I attended the Maggie Gyllenhaal Screen Talk. After it, I was queuing at the BFI cafe to get a tea and Diana – who was also in her first year attending the LFF and had attended the Screen Talk – was in front of me in the queue. We started talking while waiting in the queue, then spent the rest of the day together at the festival, attending different screenings and events. We’ve become amazing friends since! We are both called Diana, which makes it really funny and cute when we meet new people.
Watching Sandra Hebron (former Festival Director) trying to interview Mickey Rourke after the Surprise Film screening of The Wrestler. He was just uncontrollable, expletive-ridden and hilarious – everything you’d expect and want in a real life Mickey Rourke! He came out with story after story, sitting on the stage with the audience loving every minute of it. ‘There was this one time …..’ followed by a tale of drug and alcohol-fuelled abandon…

Fancy making your own LFF stories? Join us in cinemas across London, at our partner venues around the UK or online on BFI Player.