For a week and a half in October, London will become a hive of excitement (well, even more so than usual) as it draws well-kn film stars in their thousands for the BFI Film Festival. The event, which is sponsored by American Express, is nothing short of a star-studded celebration of all things cinema-related, with a plethora of exciting events and activities to keep the most avid movie-lovers happy.
With 2015’s incarnation not happening for another nine months or so, there is scant information as to what visitors can expect – even the most marketing-hungry film PR experts would give it another few weeks before the relentless promotion mill starts. However, judging by how well last year’s BFI Film Festival went down, there is plenty to look forward to over the coming months.
The appearance of film stars
Benedict Cumberbatch and Dame Judi Dench are among those who frequent the event, although it’s worth noting that no appearance is guaranteed, and especially not in the same screening as you, and certainly not in the seat behind you. At the same time though, anything’s possible, isn’t it? And wouldn’t that be the selfie of a lifetime?
A festival is more often than not made by the quality of the films on offer, and while the appearance of mega-famous stars is enough to cause excitement, it’s not going to be enough if the films themselves aren’t any good. The celebration focuses primarily on the British industry and there’s plenty of good stuff to look forward to coming out of the UK over the next nine months. No telling which will be featured in the festival of course, but fanatics will no doubt be looking forward to the next James Bond, which is entitled Spectre. Spy enthusiasts will have more than their fill in 2015 actually, with Spooks: The greater Good also set to be released in May.
In the animated category, we’d be very surprised if recently released Aardman production Shaun the Sheep doesn’t get recognition, while Sherlock Holmes is continuing to attract attention with a new incarnation that puts Ian McKellen in the proverbial deerstalker hat.
How it all happens
This year, the BFI London Film Festival happens from October 7th until the 18th, although bear in mind that some events and activities might take place slightly outside this timeframe. Films are divided into categories, with official red gala screenings of the latest films being the most sought-after in terms of ticket sales thanks to the attendance of big-time stars. Categories include special awards for documentaries, adrenaline-inducing thrillers, mushy love stories, comedy, family and many more. In addition, there are a number of other categories that include First Feature Competition and the coveted Official Competition that recognises inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking. Experimental filming also gets its own recognition.
Even if you can’t be in town for the BFI Festival in October, London has an amazing relationship with the world of film and there’s plenty of opportunity to sample the culture if you’re into that sort of thing. For a start, Leicester Square’s glamorous cinemas play host to enormous film premieres every other week, and while seeing a film in one of them is expensive, you’ll certainly feel like you’re getting bang for your buck. Especially if you spy a Hollywood face sharing the screening with you.
Also worthy of a visit is the IMAX Cinema near South Bank. An enormous circular building, the gigantic screen allows for groundbreaking 3D imagery and the vast venue allows for plenty of opportunity to discover the magic of this type of film through a number of exciting exhibitions. Magnificent stuff.
If it’s smaller independent cinemas and screenings you’re after, there are plenty of them scattered around the city. London’s outer districts are home to some truly charismatic venues – the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton, Tricycle Cinema in Brent and the Grade II listed Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley are fantastic places to sample.
Finally, it’s always worth checking where the Rooftop Film Club is the week you’re in the city. This mobile film club takes place in some bizarre places and always offers movies with attitude and altitude. There is also a hot-tub variant on the theme in the summer.