BFI London Film Festival announces 2021 dates

Feature and short film submissions are now open for the 65th BFI London Film Festival, which will run from 6 to 17 October 2021.

Malachi Kirby, Steve McQueen, Rochenda Sandall, Letitia Wright and Shaun Parkes at the LFF premiere of Mangrove (2020)

The BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express today confirmed the dates for the festival’s 65th edition, which will take place from 6 to 17 October, following a highly successful hybrid edition in 2020, which combined in-cinema experiences at partner venues UK-wide and an online edition for audiences at home via BFI Player. Over 315,000 attendees – the highest on record – engaged with the programme from throughout the UK as well as internationally. 

We are pleased to announce that submissions for the 2021 BFI London Film Festival are now open to UK shorts and features and international short films.

The final deadline for features and short films is Thursday 17 June at 5pm BST. 

Each year the BFI London Film Festival presents a selection of the best in world cinema, showing audiences a wide array of films, representing a variety of languages, genres and filmmaking styles.

The BFI LFF showcases exceptional British filmmaking alongside international work, and the programme spans features, shorts, fiction, documentary, artists’ moving image, restorations, animation and films for families, alongside titles destined for awards-season glory.

Films entered through open submissions are eligible for Official Competition, Documentary Competition, First Feature Competition and Short Film Competition, provided they meet the other criteria for these sections and with priority given to European and world premieres.

The 64th edition of the festival, which took place in October last year, was more accessible to audiences around the UK than ever, with 54 virtual premieres and 17 in-cinema premieres at BFI Southbank and 12 partner cinemas across the country. The festival achieved audiences of over 141,253 for both physical and virtual screenings and XR programme attendances across public, education and press and industry screenings.

The entire events and talks programme was delivered digitally for the first time ever and achieved over 174,285 engagements, with highlights including over 8,000 views of Tsai Ming-liang’s Screen Talk, nearly 9,000 views of the female horror panel and 11,000 views of Riz Ahmed’s Screen Talk across all platforms. All events were closed captioned and most included BSL interpretation. The festival was also accessed virtually across the UK with over 40% coming from outside of London and from key cities, with Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester seeing the biggest audiences.

Together, these figures made attendances at the 64th BFI London Film Festival the highest on record with an overall attendance of over 315,000.

The programme featured a diverse selection of 60 feature films (including 3 TV projects) and 57 short films from established and emerging talent. It hosted 6 world premieres, 2 international premieres, 8 European premieres and 43 UK premieres. A total of 41 countries were represented throughout the programme and 39.6% of the features were directed or co-directed by women. The festival opened with Steve MᶜQueen’s Mangrove and closed with Francis Lee’s Ammonite.

The final day of the festival featured a Screen Talk with George Clooney discussing his latest feature The Midnight Sky at a free event that was accessed by UK and international audiences via the BFI YouTube channel. This concluded an insightful Screen Talks programme featuring actors Riz Ahmed and Letitia Wright, filmmakers Michel Franco, Miranda July, Tsai Ming-liang, Christian Petzold, musician and performer David Byrne and artist Es Devlin.

Throughout the festival, filmmakers and on-screen talents were invited to take part in virtual introductions and Q&As that were screened both in cinemas and as part of virtual screenings across BFI Player, including: Steve McQueen, Francis Lee, Phyllida Lloyd, Clare Dunne, Harriet Walter, Josephine Decker, Frances McDormand, Elisabeth Moss, Bassam Tariq, Harry Macqueen, Christian Petzold, Thomas Vinterberg, Spike Lee, Aleem Khan, Chloé Zhao, Pedro Almodóvar and Tilda Swinton.

Over the course of the festival the BFI also welcomed the following filmmakers, cast and special guests to BFI Southbank: Afraz Hussain, Aleem Khan, Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, Annika Summerson, Aiysha Hart, Bennett McGhee, Colin Firth, Emily Morgan, Geraldine O’Flynn, Graham Norton, Harry Macqueen, Hussain Manawer, Joanna Scanlan, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Michael Ward, Nabhaan Rizwan, Nubiya Brandon, Phyllida Lloyd, Raffy Bushman, Rochenda Sandall, Sharon Horgan, Shaun Parkes, Steve McQueen, Thomas Benski, Toby Coffey and Tristan Goligher.

For the first time, the festival was delighted to bring audiences LFF Expanded: a new dedicated strand of XR and immersive art and a new long term partnership with the National Theatre. LFF Expanded featured virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and live immersive performance, showcased in a virtual museum space called The Expanse, which was free to access to UK and international audiences for the duration of the festival and visited by a total of 7,751 people from home and at BFI Southbank. LFF Expanded presented a number of original and thought-provoking panel discussions and talks around the medium of VR and very special opportunities to meet the artists and explore pioneering new works. 

The festival awards were in the hands of the public who took the place of the festival’s official jury and were invited to vote in four categories: Best Fiction Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Short Film and Best XR. The following winners were announced at the virtual LFF audience awards ceremony by film critic Rhianna Dillon, in which Best Film was presented to Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round, Best Documentary was presented to Benjamin Ree for The Painter and the Thief, Best Short Film was presented to Tommy Gillard for Shuttlecock and Best XR/Immersive Art was presented to Anna West and David Callanan for To Miss the Ending. The 2021 edition of the festival will again be asking LFF audiences to vote for their favourite films.

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