The BFI London Film Festival has established a new format for its 2020 edition, which will run as a combination of virtual and physical screenings.
The festival, which will take place from October 7-18, will host 50 virtual premieres, each of which will play at a set time, and feature additional elements including talent Q&As and discussions. There will also be a programme of free-to-access digital talks and online events, including an online version of the festival’s LFF Screen Talks brand.
The festival will maintain its 11 genre strands: Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Create, Family, Treasures, and Experimenta. A new free-to-access XR and immersive strand will play entirely online, with audiences able to explore a virtual gallery and experience XR projects.
The full programme will be announced via an online launch on September 8. The physical part of the festival will run as 12 previews of upcoming films, playing in cinemas around the UK at yet-to-be-announced venues.
LFF will partner with exhibitors including those in the BFI Film Audience Network for the physical screenings, with the films also playing at the flagship BFI Southbank site and select other London cinemas.
In a change from previous years, there will be no appointed jury for the event. Instead, viewers will be able to vote on audience awards in four categories: best fiction feature, best documentary feature, best short film and best XR. The winners will be announced in a live online ceremony on the final weekend of the festival.
The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award will again give £50,000 to a first- or second-time British filmmaker.
“Like many other live events around the world, we’ve had to make changes to our plans in response to a global pandemic, factoring in safety concerns and restrictions – some known, some still unclear,” said festival director Tricia Tuttle. “But as we’ve undergone this planning we’ve also witnessed historical international protests, an urgent reminder of just how much we need to do to combat racism and inequality.
“This year has also given us an opportunity to think creatively about how we make the festival more accessible. It was vital to us that we get back to cinemas, and are looking forward to working with independent and cultural venues across the UK who are such an essential part of our film ecosystem.
“The Virtual LFF programmes and these cinema screenings take the Festival out across the UK, giving people opportunities to engage in different ways.”
The LFF Press and Industry programme will take place online in its entirety. UK and international delegates will have access to preview screenings via a secure viewing library, plus the opportunity to attend online buyers and sellers meetings and an exclusive delegate programme of talks and events.
The Critics Mentorship Programme will return, with the aim of encouraging a more representative range of critical voices, as will new talent programmes run with BFI Network, BFI Film Academy and Bafta.
“It’s a pleasure each year to speak with audiences who share the ways filmmakers have made them laugh, think, weep, or shifted their way of seeing,” added Tuttle. “Through a number of partnerships and platforms, we can’t wait to share many of this year’s extraordinary new films – from around the world, from artists of different backgrounds and with many bold distinctive filmmaking voices.”