The BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, today announced the complete lineup for LFF Expanded, the festival’s immersive art and XR strand, which will run from 6 to 17 October 2021.

Presented in partnership with the National Theatre, this year’s hybrid programme features works from creators bringing stories and experiences to life through bleeding-edge, immersive technologies, including interactive VR, 360 films, augmented reality, mixed reality and live immersive performance.

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The programme will be presented across multiple venues in-person at LFF Expanded @ 26 Leake Street, BFI Southbank, Ballet Rambert, and LFF Expanded at the National Theatre. A selection of works will be available online to audiences in the UK and internationally via the virtual exhibition space, The Expanse.  

This year, LFF Expanded will feature 18 projects (eight of which have lead artists that identify as women and six as ethnically diverse) working in immersive media and representing 13 countries (UK, USA, France, South Africa, Taiwan, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Israel, Nigeria, Canada, Denmark and Luxembourg).

The programme features nine works from the UK and a total of six world premieres, including Asif Kapadia’s striking VR animation, Laika, which Kapadia will be in attendance to present. Eulogy, a captivating and challenging performance that unfolds in complete darkness by cutting-edge production company Darkfield, and Future Rites, a work-in-progress version of an interactive VR dance performance from the Alexander Whitley Dance Company. 

The BFI London Film Festival is delighted to have been able to financially support three of the presented projects in line with the wider ambitions of the BFI to engage with new forms of immersive storytelling. These three projects vary greatly in form and use of technology: while Laika by acclaimed filmmaker Asif Kapadia is an animated VR project produced by esteemed studio Passion Pictures, Museum of Austerity by Sacha Wares and John Ping uses cutting-edge augmented reality technology to showcase an immersive, free-roaming installation whereas Future Rites by choreographer Alexander Whitley presents an in-person interactive VR dance performance. 

Noah’s Raft (2021)

Our virtual exhibition space The Expanse will feature seven 360-videos and immersive works, plus a virtual theatre, and will be accessible worldwide and free of charge both via VR headsets and as a standalone desktop app. LFF Expanded is programmed by Ulrich Schrauth, the LFF Immersive Art and XR Curator, who also worked closely with INVR.Space on the design of the virtual gallery.

Schrauth said: “We are excited to present to our audiences this wide range of creators, artists and filmmakers from all over the world and share their incredible projects in specialised exhibitions and settings. With our LFF Expanded artists coming from very different backgrounds and artistic genres, the programme is an exciting array of various art forms and showcases at the forefront of how artists experiment with emerging technologies. This new strand is not about technology, it’s about the stories these creators want to share with us. Stories of cultural, social and political urgency, giving visitors the possibility to get completely immersed in a work of art and challenge their own perspectives on these important matters of our current times.”

Early concept artwork for Laika, directed by Asif Kapadia, working with Passion Pictures
© Passion Pictures

Additionally, the festival will host an opening event in-person at LFF Expanded @ 26 Leake Street, the award-winning venue in the historic Leake Street graffiti tunnels which will serve as LFF Expanded’s primary exhibition space and will feature 15 projects from the programme. A dedicated Immersive Art and XR Award will be announced at a special virtual LFF awards ceremony event on Sunday 17 October at 16:00 on BFI YouTube and social media. Felix Barrett, the artistic director and founder of the pioneering British theatre company Punchdrunk will preside as jury president with the remainder of the jury to be announced in the coming weeks.

The LFF Expanded programme, as announced in 2020, is presented in partnership with the National Theatre and its Immersive Storytelling Studio, which works with artists and emerging technologies to develop new forms of storytelling and audience experience. This year the theatre presents Museum of Austerity, a co-production between English Touring Theatre, the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio and Trial & Error. Combining verbal testimony, original music and ground-breaking volumetric capture, this exhibition invites audiences to contemplate close-up and for free the human impact of austerity. This powerful installation combines the skills of theatre/XR director Sacha Wares with the in-depth knowledge of John Pring, editor of Disability News Service.

“It’s fantastic to be launching this incredible programme of immersive work for audiences to enjoy both across the South Bank and around the world,” says Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at the National Theatre. “We’re honoured to be partnering with the BFI again this year on LFF Expanded and to showcase the great array of international talent in the XR field. This year, we’re proud to have been part of a powerful and moving installation that I see is a true development of the form. Museum of Austerity marks many years of work from John Pring and Sacha Wares to present the true stories of those who were critically in need of support in our society over the last decade in a truly moving and immersive experience.” 

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