As the Times bfi London FilmFestival prepares for its 50th anniversary (October 18-November 2), plans areunderway for a series of celebratory events.

These will include a specialscreening under Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square as well as the largest surprisefilm screening, showing simultaneously in 50 venues across the city. There arealso expected to be a number of shorts films from leading directors celebratingLondon that will be specially commissioned for the festival.

This year, London's dateswill overlap with those of the newly launched RomeFilmFest (13-21 October2006.) 'It (the clash in dates) potentially poses problems around a smallnumber of titles that that festival and our festival will be competing for,'LFF artistic director Sandra Hebron acknowledged, but she added that London'sproximity to Rome in the festival calendar could also provide opportunities forcollaboration.

As it reaches itshalf-century, the festival is holding an extensive consultation processinvolving leading industry figures. 'We will be taking advantage of ourbirthday to take stock and plan for our future,' said Hebron. Suchquestions as whether the LFF should shift dates or becoming competitive areamong the topics being addressed.

UK Culture Minister TessaJowell appeared at the festival's reception at the Majestic Hotel in Canneslast night.

As part of the 50thanniversary celebrations, London's National Film Theatre will host twoprogrammes of festival related films in the months leading up to the autumnevent, beginning with a reprise of the first festival starting on July 2. Fiftyyears ago, in October 1957, the first London Film Festival opened with ascreening of Akira Kurasawa's Throne of Blood and showed works from filmmakers including Bergman,Fellini, Visconti and Wajda.