By which I mean it’s already here, virtually, for Press, and is less than a week away for the public (the festival runs from 7-18 October).
This year LFF features over 50 virtual premieres, free online events and cinema screenings across the UK. Delve into the whole feature programme here and the short films programme here. You can book online or by phone.
The New Normal
I know – how many films jostling for film festival acceptances in the next few years with have that as their title, along with Party of Six, Lockdown Love and Return to Barnard Castle.
Obviously it’s very different this time around (what isn’t?) – if you’re planning on buying tickets check out this LFF 2020 explained article, and make sure you pay attention to the rules of watching! Not every film has an online viewing option. Online film screenings are UK-only, and if you’re watching a film online, check how quickly you need to start viewing and how long you have to finish the film once you’ve begun.
While it’s going to take a bit of getting used to, virtual screenings mean if you’re a film fan outside London, or you simply don’t feel able to go to a public cinema screening, you can still see many of the most anticipated upcoming movies well before they go on general release.
I’ve got Press accreditation again this year, and I’m hoping to see (and write about) more movies than last time from the (dis)comfort of my own sofa. In previous years many press screenings for Gala films would take place in central London at 8am, which meant they were almost impossible for me to get to (and would have cost me £40 a pop in peak time rail fares). And I live relatively near London – for many critics further away without a regular, paid writing gig, attending at all has been unfeasible.
Film festivals are always going to expensive to attend in person, though to be fair to LFF, this isn’t the first year they’ve offered online access. They’ve provided a digital viewing library for Press attendees for a while, and though it may not have included the big name films there were always plenty of indie gems to watch at home – and it stayed live for several days after the festival ended, a boon if work/family/anything else didn’t allow concentrated film watching during the festival. (This year the digital viewing library is the home of the short films selection only, which I’m looking forward to investigating; though I don’t know why they haven’t included some feature films like in previous years.)
Obviously while there are benefits to going online there are also drawbacks. Not physically attending means missing out on the cinema experience, as well as networking or simply meeting other people in the same boat (writing at home in the middle of the night is a lonely business fuelled in my case by coffee and Cadbury’s).
Start time windows mean that taking time off may still be necessary for many unpaid writers with 9-5 jobs. Presumably there are reasons they’re not offering evening press screenings online, even if just for the few days between press screenings starting and the actual festival opening to the public, but I don’t know what they are.
For me this year is working much better though; I can take my children to school and the dog for a walk before sitting down with a coffee in front of my Mac.
Press screenings started yesterday with Honeymood (which I didn’t get to see) followed mid-morning by the much anticipated Mogul Mowgli (which I did).
(I’m going to write more about Mogul Mowgli, either as a full length site review or in a shorter blog post. And let’s ignore the fact that my “shorter blog posts” seem to be as long as everything else on the site – honestly, I started this section so I could bash out some BRIEF thoughts in ten minutes then hit Publish. But regardless, it’s well worth putting Mogul Mowgli on your to-watch list if you’re currently working out what to prioritise. And it’s only 90 minutes’ long!)
Overall, in terms of public access to films, this year has a lot going for it. And there are still in-person LFF screenings in London and at selected cinemas around the country for people who can (a) get there, and (b) are happy to venture out to the cinema.
I’m venturing out too, even if not to London, to see Ammonite at my local Picturehouse on 17 October as part of the festival (Ammonite is the official closing title this year, with Steve McQueen’s Mangrove the opener).
There won’t be any 2020 red carpets, though there’s nothing to stop you dressing up at home and watching online with a glass of slightly warm prosecco. And if you’re missing your celebs check out some of the talks and events, including the Screen Talk just announced with George Clooney (hopefully Gorgeous George will pitch up for his talk in a dinner suit. It doesn’t do to let standards slip).
With the state of cinema at the moment – yesterday Bond was shelved until next April – Ammonite is a perfect chance to get back there and celebrate British film (if you feel able to, of course).
Francis Lee’s movie is an imagined romance between working class fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet), by now middle-aged and reduced to selling fossils to holidaymakers, and Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), a rich young woman on holiday from London whose husband palms her off on Anning for a few days.
In fact here’s Francis Lee on that very subject:
If we want to still have actual cinemas, we have to put films into *cinemas*. You can see Ammonite at over 500 cinemas on 17th Oct, part of @bfi #LFF thanks to @LionsgateUK commitment to theatrical distribution. If you are able, please go out and support your local cinema ❤️ https://t.co/sQ3k67cjal— Francis Lee (@strawhousefilms) October 2, 2020
Despite my friend refusing to come with me to see Ammonite on the grounds that “it doesn’t sound as good as Jurassic Park“, it’s a no brainer for me: I love bonnets and crinolines, and I have spent many a holiday in Lyme Regis, looking for, well, ammonites. (As with conkers I’m not even going to bother pretending anymore that they’re for my children.)
My LFF picks (so far!)
So what am I most looking forward to, beyond Ammonite?
- Multigenerational supernatural horror Relic.
- Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, starring Andrea Riseborough as a psychic hitwoman.
- Another Round (Druk) starring Mads Mikkelsen.
- The Reason I Jump, an immersive film highlighting how the world is for people with ASD.
- Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland starring Frances McDormand.
- Shirley, with Elisabeth Moss as novelist Shirley Jackson.
- Regina King’s One Night In Miami.
- Abel Ferrara’s Siberia with Willem Dafoe.
- Kajillionaire, about a family of grifters.
- Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes, an acoustic exploration of the woman who wrote the Doctor Who theme.
- Supernova, Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth about a middle aged couple dealing with early-onset dementia.
- Lovers Rock, a journey into 80s Black London from Steve McQueen.
- Kore-eda’s A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura – the first episode in a TV series about a famous actress going home to her mum for the day.
I doubt I’ll manage them all – and even as i was finding the links for the ones above I was discovering more and more I wanted to include – but I’ll try…
Delve into the whole feature programme here and the short films programme here.