67th BFI London Film Festival brings in record audience and announces LFF Audience Award winners

The festival reached audiences of 430,550 across 12 days of screenings in London and UK-wide, including features, series, shorts, immersive art and extended reality works, Screen Talks, LFF For Free events, free short films on BFI Player and the LFF Industry Forum.

30 October 2023

Daniel Kaluuya, Kane Robinson, Ian Wright and Kibwe Tavares on the red carpet for the closing night gala screening of The Kitchen (2023)
London Film Festival

The 67th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express closed on Sunday 15 October with the world premiere of Kibwe Tavares and Daniel Kaluuya’s The Kitchen, supported by BMW. The event was attended by an exciting array of special guests including filmmakers Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares as well as cast members Kane Robinson, Ian Wright, Jedaiah Bannerman, Hope Ikpoku Jr, Teija Kabs, Demmy Ladipo, Cristale and BackRoad Gee. 

Michaela Coel and Asif Kapadia joined them on the red carpet for the BMW Filmmaking Challenge in partnership with the BFI, with the winning short film – We Collide – announced and screened at the event. The closing night gala took place at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall which returned as the festival’s headline gala venue for a third time since its inaugural year in 2021.  

BFI London Film Festival director Kristy Matheson, marking her first year in the role, said: “It was an absolute joy seeing audiences enthusiastically connecting to this year’s programme which was beautifully handcrafted by our talented festival team. Over 12 days we saw audiences coming together and being rewarded for their curiosity and fandom across the full breadth of what the moving image has to offer. UK artists shone bright across the whole programme, alongside some of international cinema’s greatest legends and exciting new talents; our sincere thanks to them for sharing their supreme creativity with us all.”

LFF Audience Awards

Placing audiences at the heart of the festival, the winners of this year’s LFF Audience Awards, as chosen by members of the public who saw the films during the festival (including at UK-wide venues) are also announced today. George Amponsah’s high-octane thriller Gassed Up, in which a group of London teenage boys turn to motorbike crime for survival, wins the Best Feature Award. Chloe Abrahams’ debut The Taste of Mango wins Best Documentary and follows three generations of women spanning Sri Lanka to London. Festival of Slaps wins Best British Work and is a short film, set in the UK from director/screenwriter Abdou Cisse, in which a Nigerian mother’s slap triggers a humorous reflection on cultural stereotypes. Murals, presented in the LFF Expanded programme from artists Alex Topaller, Daniel Shapiro and Artem Ivanenko wins Best Immersive/XR and is an immersive work showing the devastation of war in Ukraine juxtaposed with Banksy’s murals.  

Venues

Audiences flocked to the festival’s vibrant and bustling cultural hub the South Bank where the headline gala venue Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall sits alongside BFI Southbank and an exhibition of immersive Art and extended reality works, presented at new venues Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf, Gallery@OXO, Outernet and Science Gallery London, plus free augmented reality walks around Central London and cinemas in and around Leicester Square in London’s West End. A selection of 16 LFF features screened at nine partner cinemas in cities across the UK’s nations and regions, as well as a curated programme of 14 free shorts available digitally on BFI Player, Screen Talks on BFI You Tube for the duration of the festival and an industry forum at Picturehouse Central, a busy hub for delegates this year. 

In numbers

The 67th edition welcomed more than 800 international and UK filmmakers, immersive art and extended reality artists and series creatives to present their work at venues across the capital. The festival featured an exciting range of 252 titles (comprising features, shorts, XR works and series) hailing from 92 countries, and featured 79 languages with 39% of works from female and non-binary filmmakers. All features and series screened to UK audiences for the first time, including 29 world premieres (14 features, 2 series and 13 shorts), 7 international premieres (6 features and 1 short) and 30 European premieres (22 features, 1 series and 7 shorts). 

This year’s programme of 252 titles as well as high-profile Screen Talks, a programme of events for industry delegates and immensely popular LFF For Free events had 195,665 attendances, the highest in-person attendance in the last five years, while 225,577 enjoyed the festival online. Over half of this year’s bookers (54%) were new to the LFF and occupancy across the festival’s London in-cinema screenings and events has increased to 90%, up from 87% in 2022 and higher than pre-pandemic levels of 84% in 2018 and 83% in 2019. 

Awards

The winners of this year’s BFI London Film Festival awards were announced at the festival’s close on 15 October. They were chosen by juries, presided over by Amat Escalante (Official Competition), Raine Allen-Miller (First Feature Competition), Rubika Shah (Documentary Competition) and Charlotte Regan (Short Film Competition).

  • Evil Does Not Exist (Dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi) — Best Film Award in Official Competition
  • Paradise Is Burning (Dir. Mika Gustafson) — Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition 
  • Bye Bye Tiberias (Dir. Lina Soualem) — Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition  
  • The Archive: Queer Nigerians (Dir. Simisolaoluwa Akande) — Short Film Award in the Short Film Competition

LFF Expanded

The immersive art and extended reality strand of the BFI London Film Festival LFF Expanded launched with 14 extended reality projects, including a three-week showcase of nine works by international artists, filmmakers and creators working across interactive virtual reality, screen-based installations and augmented reality at a brand new hub venue for 2023, Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf.

With a strong emphasis on projects that invited audiences into first person perspectives, digital artworks highlighted powerful experiences from history, alongside timely contemporary narratives, including Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat’s politically charged video installation and VR work, The Fury; Darren Emerson’s Letters from Drancy, which follows the story of holocaust survivor Marion Deichmann during WWII; Tania de Montaigne’s augmented reality work, Colored, which engaged audiences in the true story of 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, who fought segregation laws in 1950s America; and Karen Palmer’s interactive film, Consensus Gentium, which explores the frightening potential of today’s surveillance technologies and bias in smart technologies.

LFF Expanded also saw a new partnership for 2023 with Outernet Arts, presenting a unique festival commission by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, My Trip 2023 (which continues on Monday nights until 27 November), an audiovisual event spectacle at London Science Gallery Elsewhere in India and two augmented reality commissions Ghosts of Solid Air and Fleeting Figures, which transformed the familiar locations of London’s Trafalgar Square and South Bank via interactive art and history walks. 

LFF for Free

Returning this year with more than 50 completely free events, the LFF for Free programme offered audiences a diverse and engaging line-up for attendees of all tastes. From screenings to family-focused activities, to talks with household names and visionary new talent, augmented reality walks and film-inspired music nights, the programme was accessible to the widest range of audiences possible. Highlights included a special preview screening of Episodes one and two of Marvel Studios’ Loki Season 2, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget model-making workshops run by one of Aardman’s top model-makers, debut short films from creatives celebrated in other fields, including novelists Eimear McBride and Caleb Azmah Nelson and actor Mackenzie Davis, plus Pitchblack Playback deep listening sessions in the dark and talks from the likes of author Michael Morpurgo, screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce and filmmaker Sav Rodgers.

Surprise Film

The Surprise Film was the biopic sports thriller Ferrari, starring Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz, and directed by Michael Mann, who took part in a Q&A following the screening with Festival Director, Kristy Matheson. Based on the 1991 biography Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine by motorsport journalist Brock Yates, the film follows the personal and professional struggles of Enzo Ferrari, the Italian founder of the car manufacturer Ferrari S.p.A.. 

LFF Industry Forum

This year’s LFF Industry Forum events welcomed 3,649 delegates – an increase on last year’s 3,254 – attending a variety of events including packed houses for the talks programme at Picturehouse Central. The Industry Forum provides opportunities for new business and learning alongside networking for delegates working across the wider screen industries as well as policy makers. The in-person talks and panel events explored how industry and talent are working together at different stages of the creative and business life-cycle, from film and talent development to screenwriting, co-production, through to sales, distribution, the awards process and technological innovation.   

These included American Academy and BAFTA leaders Bill Kramer and Jane Millichip in an opening conversation with BFI chief executive Ben Roberts on how their organisations are evolving to support filmmakers, talent and industry. The festival also presented three Spotlight conversations with international industry leaders: Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and director of the globally successful Frozen films discussing her incredible career and work; Carole Baraton, founder and CEO of French sales company Charades, on how she has positioned independent UK films in the international marketplace; and Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, the co-founders of See-Saw Films, with creative director Helen Gregory on stage together for the first time, discussing the 15-year journey in creating the successful production powerhouse which works out of the UK and Australia, and how they support independent filmmakers in their work.   

Other highlights included the anatomy of getting first features off the ground with the teams behind the acclaimed debuts In Camera and The End We Start From; the complexities of making the eight partnered international co-production The Settlers (supported by the UK Global Screen Fund) with majority producer Giancarlo Nasi and UK producer Emily Morgan; and the inspirations and ambitions shared by eight emerging writers from across the UK producing work diverse in form and story. The event exploring generative AI looked at how film, TV and video games companies are integrating it in their work, showcased pioneering tools and the launch by Largo AI’s Sami Arpa of a new storyboard tool.   

International talent agents, festival directors and programmers, producers, sales agents and distributors also attended the LFF Works-in-Progress showcase which presented five new films and feature documentaries by UK-based filmmakers. The projects attracted strong interest with business outcomes being tracked as they make their way to market.  

The LFF Industry Forum also welcomed producers from France participating in the New Waves co-production meetings with UK producers organised by the Institut Français UK, the BFI and the CNC in partnership with Unifrance; producers from South Africa supported by the National Film & Video Foundation looking to forge partnerships with UK producers; and producers from Nigeria in London for the Nigerian International Film Summit also meeting UK producers during the LFF to explore international collaboration opportunities.  

Other LFF Industry Forum events supporting UK screen-based businesses and talent and increasing opportunities for international collaboration included a Buyers and Sellers day, Press and Industry screenings and a UK Talent Days focus, in partnership with the British Council. A networking lunch for invited UK and international delegates was co-hosted by the LFF and the UK Global Screen Fund as well as a UK Talent Party supported by the British Council and Sunbelt Rentals; the BFI NETWORK@LFF programme for UK-based writers, directors and producers; the LFF Critics Mentorship Programme, supporting six aspiring writers from under-represented backgrounds and an inaugural DDA Accelerator Programme, in partnership with the LFF, gave opportunities to crews and social media outlets on the red carpet to gain experience and have their work featured on The British Blacklist. 

Event partners supporting the LFF Industry Forum included Apple TV+, BFI NETWORK, the British Council, Directors UK, FOCUS, Glasgow Film Festival, Sunbelt Rental, Reddit and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, along with existing partner Film London which returned with the established Production Finance Market bringing together UK and international producers and financiers.   

BFI Film Academy

BFI Film Academy gave young, aspiring screen creatives aged 16-25 a range of opportunities to engage with the festival to develop their storytelling and filmmaking skills and learn about breaking into the industries.   

On 15 October, a dedicated Film Academy Day supported by Netflix brought together a diverse group of young, emerging screen creatives. This full-day event was designed to enable participants to connect with industry professionals and like-minded peers. Attendees had the opportunity to visit the LFF Expanded exhibition and gain insights from two industry sessions. George Jaques and Jamie Flatters, the creative duo behind Black Dog, shared their expertise on authentically portraying young people on screen. In a separate session, BAFTA-nominated and BIFA-award-winning writer Theresa Ikoko (Grime Kids) offered valuable advice on writing for various mediums. The day ended with a networking event supported by Netflix. 

In a parallel initiative, a curated selection of short films called #GenerationNow were made available for free on BFI Player across the UK. Young people could also hear directly from the filmmakers in the #GenerationNow programme as part of the Scene series live on the BFI Film Academy Instagram and hosted by the BFI Film Academy Young Programmers. The Young Programmers also curated four themed in-person events as part of the LFF for Free programme.  

Through BFI Film Academy accreditation 300 young screen creatives also gained access to press and industry screenings and the majority of panels and talks included in the LFF industry programme. 

In a commitment to fostering emerging talent and the future of the screen industries, the BFI Film Academy, with the invaluable support of Netflix, has taken significant strides toward empowering the next generation of screen creatives and the BFI London Film Festival served as the perfect backdrop for their programme.

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