BFI London Film Festival

The BFI London Film Festival is an annual film festival founded in 1957 and held in the United Kingdom, running for two weeks in October with cooperation from the British Film Institute. It screens more than 300 films, documentaries and shorts from approximately 50 countries.

BFI London Film Festival
LocationLondon, England
Founded1957 (1957)


In 1953 a group of critics including Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times, raised the notion of a film festival for London. The first London Film Festival was conceived by James Quinn, and took place at the new National Film Theatre (now renamed BFI Southbank) from 16–26 October 1957.[1] The first festival screened 15-20 films from a selection of directors, including Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, Satyajit Ray's Aparajito, Andrzej Wajda's Kanał[1] and Luchino Visconti's White Nights.

The second edition was held from 6-14 October 1958[2] and saw the introduction of the Sutherland Trophy which was awarded to Yasujirō Ozu for Tokyo Story.[3]

BFI London Film Festival Today

While the programme still retains the 'festivals' feel, it also now shows new discoveries from "important and exciting talents" in world cinema. Whilst it continues to be first and foremost a public festival, it is also attended by large numbers of film professionals and journalists from all over the world. Importantly, it offers opportunities for people to see films that may not otherwise get a UK screening along with films which will get a release in the near future.

The festival is "topped and tailed" by the Opening and Closing galas which have now become major red carpet events in the London calendar and are world premiere screenings, which take place in large venues in central London, attended by the cast and crew of the films, and introduced by the Festival director and the film's directors or producers, and often the actors themselves.

Previously a number of festival awards were presented at the Closing gala, but in 2009, with the aid of some funding from the UK Film Council, a stand-alone awards ceremony was introduced.

Other than these events the screenings at the Festival are quite informal and similar to the normal cinema experience except for two things; some films are accompanied by Q&A sessions which give the audience unique access to the film-maker and/or a member of the cast and offer insight into the making of the film and occasionally an opportunity for the audience to engage directly and ask questions; and the second aspect is that people generally stay and watch the credits.

The festival is divided into themes which cover different areas of interest - in 2009 these were; Galas and Special Screenings, Film on the Square, New British Cinema, French Revolutions, Cinema Europa, World Cinema, Experimenta, Treasures from the Archives, Short Cuts and Animation. In 2009 the Festival, whilst focused around Leicester Square (Vue West End, Odeon West End and Empire) and the BFI Southbank in central London, also screened films across 18 other venues – Curzon Mayfair Cinema, ICA Cinema on The Mall, The Ritzy in Brixton, Cine Lumière in South Kensington, Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, David Lean Cinema in Croydon, the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel, The Greenwich Picturehouse, the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, Rich Mix in Old Street, the Rio Cinema in Dalston, the Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn, the Waterman Art Centre in Brentford and Trafalgar Square for the open air screening of short films from the BFI National Archive. The 2009 Festival featured 15 world premieres including Wes Anderson’s first animated feature, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Sam Taylor-Wood’s feature début Nowhere Boy, about the formative years of John Lennon, as well as the Festival’s first ever Archive Gala, the BFI’s new restoration of Anthony Asquith’s Underground, with live music accompaniment by the Prima Vista Social Club. European premieres in 2009 included Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs, Scott Hicks’ The Boys Are Back and Robert Connolly's Balibo, as well as Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni's The Well and Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson's Mugabe And The White African.

In 2009, directors travelling to London to introduce their latest work included Michael Haneke (Cannes Palme d'Or winner, The White Ribbon), Atom Egoyan (Chloe), Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!), Lone Scherfig (An Education), Ang Lee (Taking Woodstock), Jane Campion (Bright Star), Gaspar Noé (Enter The Void), Lee Daniels (Precious), Grant Heslov (The Men Who Stare At Goats), and Jason Reitman (Up In The Air). In addition to Fantastic Mr. Fox and Up In The Air, George Clooney supported his role in The Men Who Stare At Goats. The Festival also welcomed back previous alumni such as John Hillcoat (The Road), Joe Swanberg (Alexander The Last) and Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers), whilst also screening films from Manoel de Oliveira (Eccentricities Of A Blonde-Haired Girl), Jim Jarmusch (The Limits Of Control), Claire Denis (White Material), Ho-Yuhang (At The End Of Daybreak), Todd Solondz (Life During Wartime), and Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man).

On August 2016, American distributor A24's Free Fire was chosen to close the 2016 London Film Festival.[4]

Executive team

  • Festivals Director: Tricia Tuttle
  • Head of Business + Operations: Anu Giri
  • Film Programmers: Kate Taylor (Senior Programmer), Michael Blyth, Laure Bonville
  • Producer: Olivia Howe
  • BFI Director: Amanda Nevill


The categories highlight both emerging and established talent.

  • The Sutherland Trophy – for the most original and innovative first feature in the London Film Festival. Named after the BFI's patron, The 5th Duke of Sutherland, this award boasts recipients as noteworthy as Bertolucci, Fassbinder, Godard and Antonioni.
  • The Grierson Award – for the best feature-length documentary in the festival. This award is given jointly by the LFF and the Grierson Trust which commemorates the pioneering Scottish documentary-maker John Grierson (1898–1972), famous for Drifters and Night Mail. The Grierson Trust has a long-standing tradition of recognising outstanding films that demonstrate integrity, originality and technical excellence and social or cultural significance.

From 2009, a new standalone awards ceremony was launched which included the following awards:

  • Best Film – celebrates creative, original, imaginative, intelligent and distinctive film-making.
  • Best British Newcomer Award – celebrates new and emerging British film talent and recognises the achievements of a new writer, producer or director who demonstrates real creative flair and imagination with their first feature.
  • BFI Fellowships – the Festival showcases both the work of new film-makers and established ones, and presenting two Fellowships provides a fitting contrast to those Awards recognising new talent.


The Sutherland Trophy
Tarnation, dir. Jonathan Caouette
7th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Aaltra, dir. Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
A Way Of Life, dir. Amma Asante
9th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
The Woodsman, dir. Nicole Kassell
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Nits, dir. Harry Wootliff


The Sutherland Trophy
For the Living and the Dead, dir. Kari Paljakka
8th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Man Push Cart, dir. Ramin Bahrani
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
Producer Gayle Griffiths
The 10th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
Pavee Lackeen, dir. Perry Ogden
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Workingman's Death, dir. Michael Glawogger
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Happy, dir. Jane Lloyd


The Sutherland Trophy
Red Road, dir. Andrea Arnold
9th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Lola, dir. Javier Rebollo
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
Producer Mark Herbert
The 11th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
The Lives of Others, dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Thin, dir. Lauren Greenfield
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Silence Is Golden, dir. Chris Shepherd


The Sutherland Trophy
Persepolis, dir. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
10th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Unrelated, dir. Joanna Hogg
The Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award
Sarah Gavron, director of Brick Lane
The 12th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
California Dreamin', awarded posthumously to director Cristian Nemescu
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories, dir. Andrey Paounov
TCM Classic Shorts Award
À bout de truffe, dir. Tom Tagholm


The Sutherland Trophy
Tulpan, dir. Sergey Dvortsevoy
11th FIPRESCI International Critics Award
Three Blind Mice, dir. Matthew Newton
The 13th Annual Satyajit Ray Award
Mid-August Lunch, dir. Gianni Gregorio
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Victoire Terminus, dir. Florent de la Tullaye and Renaud Barret
TCM Classic Shorts Award
Leaving, dir. Richard Penfold and Sam Hearn


In 2009, a new annual standalone awards ceremony was launched to showcase the work of imaginative and original film-makers and to reward distinctive and intriguing work.

The Awards took place at the Inner Temple on 28 October 2009 and were hosted by Paul Gambaccini. Winners of the Sutherland Trophy, Best British Newcomer and Best Film received the inaugural Star of London award designed by sculptor Almuth Tebbenhoff.

Best Film
Un prophète, dir. Jacques Audiard
The Sutherland Trophy
Ajami, dir. Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani
Best British Newcomer Award
Jack Thorne, writer of The Scouting Book For Boys
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Defamation, dir. Yoav Shamir
BFI Fellowships
Filmmaker - Souleymane Cissé
Actor - John Hurt



Best Film
How I Ended This Summer, dir. Alexei Popogrebski[5]
The Sutherland Trophy
The Arbor, dir. Clio Barnard
Best British Newcomer Award
Clio Barnard, director of The Arbor
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Armadillo, dir. Janus Metz
BFI Fellowship
Filmmaker - Danny Boyle


Best Film
We Need to Talk About Kevin, dir. Lynne Ramsay[6]
The Sutherland Trophy
Las Acacias, dir. Pablo Giorgelli[6]
Best British Newcomer Award:
Candese Reid, actress in Junkhearts[6]
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life, dir. Werner Herzog[6]
BFI Fellowships
Filmmaker - David Cronenberg[6]
Actor - Ralph Fiennes[6]



Pawel Pawlikowski, best known for his films My Summer of Love and Last Resort, won the Best Film award for his black and white social drama Ida, his first film shot in his native Poland. Pawlikowski, at the time, was a visiting tutor at the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire and one of his pupils there, Anthony Chen, picked up the Best First Feature prize for Ilo Ilo.[7]


Leviathan was named the Best Film at the London Film Festival Awards on 18 October 2014, at a ceremony where the main prizes went to Russia, Ukraine (Best First Feature, The Tribe) and Syria (Best Documentary, Silvered Water), three countries at the centre of long-running conflicts. The winning film-makers all said they hoped that culture could help to restore peace to their countries.[8]


At a London Film Festival declared by its director Clare Stewart to be promoting strong women in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera, the theme continued into the awards, with the Best Film being named as the Greek comedy Chevalier, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari. The winner of the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature, The Witch, was described by the jury as "a fresh, feminist take on a timeless tale." Another woman was honoured with the Grierson Award for the best documentary; the Australian film-maker Jennifer Peedom, who was shooting Sherpa as a devastating avalanche struck the Himalayas, in April 2014. And the Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett described how she was "deeply honoured and dumbstruck" at being awarded a BFI Fellowship.[9]


Following the previous year's festival aimed to celebrate strong women in the film industry, 2016 was partly designed to better reflect the diverse audiences in society;[10] the festival opened with a film directed by a black director and the BFI Fellowship was awarded to Steve McQueen. Most of the awards, once again, had strong female themes - either being directed by women, about women or both. Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women won the Official Competition, while Raw, by the French director Julia Ducournau, won the Sutherland Award for the Best First Feature. Noting that there are still too few opportunities for female directors, Ducournau said, "It's about time that things are starting to change. It’s good that doors are now being opened.” The Grierson Award for the best documentary went to Starless Dreams, filmed inside a rehabilitation centre for juvenile delinquent women in Iran. For the first time, the London Film Festival ran a competition for the best short film. This went to Issa Touma, Thomas Vroege and Floor van de Muelen for the documentary 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo. Touma, a Syrian photographer who regularly returns to Aleppo, said it was important for intellectuals, academics and artists not to desert the country. "You can't change anything from far away," he said.[11]


Accepting the prestigious BFI Fellowship at the 2017 London Film Festival Awards, director Paul Greengrass acknowledged that it had been a difficult week for the film industry, on the day that Harvey Weinstein was expelled from the Academy that hands out the Oscars. He said the industry had to act and words weren't enough. The Best Film on the night went to Russia's Loveless, making Andrey Zvyagintsev the second director to have won the honour twice. South Africa's John Trengove won the Best First Film award for The Wound. Lucy Cohen's Kingdom of Us, about the aftermath of a suicide, was named the Best Documentary. And Patrick Bresnan's The Rabbit Hunt won the third Best Short Film prize.[12][13]


Best Film
Joy, dir. Sudabeh Mortezai[14]
(Special mention: Birds of Passage, dir. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra)
The Sutherland Award
Girl, dir. Lukas Dhont
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?, dir. Roberto Minervini
Short Film Award
Lasting Marks, dir. Charlie Lyne


Best Film
Monos, dir. Alejandro Landes[15]
(Special commendations: Honey Boy, dir. Alma Har'el; Saint Maud, dir. Rose Glass)
The Sutherland Award
Atlantics, dir. Mati Diop
(Special commendation: House of Hummingbird, dir. Bora Kim)
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary
White Riot, dir. Rubika Shah
Short Film Award
Fault Line (Gosal), dir. Soheil Amirsharifi
(Special commendation: If You Knew, dir. Stroma Cairns)

See also


  1. "10-Day London Fest Films Preems Oct. 16". Variety. 9 October 1957. p. 14 via
  2. "To Show Best Films From Three Pix Fests". Variety. 30 July 1958. p. 13.
  3. "Chatter: London". Variety. 22 October 1958. p. 78 via
  4. "Ben Wheatley's Free Fire will close the BFI London Film Festival this October". The Telegraph. 1 August 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  5. London film festival: British director Clio Barnard wins best newcomer, The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  6. Brown, Mark (26 October 2011). "We Need to Talk About Kevin scoops top prize at London film festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  7. Korsner, Jason (20 October 2013). "Master and Pupil Honoured by LFF on the Same Night". UK Screen. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  8. Korsner, Jason (19 October 2014). "International Politics Creeps Into LFF Awards". UK Screen. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  9. Korsner, Jason (17 October 2015). "Women Reign Supreme at London Film Festival". What's Worth Seeing. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  10. "London Film Festival to focus on diversity". BBC News. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  11. Korsner, Jason (15 October 2016). "Diversity Reigns at the London Film Festival Awards". What's Worth Seeing. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  12. Korsner, Jason (14 October 2017). "Harvey Weinstein's Shadow Hangs Over London Film Festival Awards". What's Worth Seeing. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  13. "61st BFI London Film Festival announces 2017 winners" (Press release). BFI. Archived from the original on 17 November 2017.
  14. "2018 competition winners announced at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival" (Press release). BFI. 20 October 2018. Archived from the original on 23 October 2018.
  15. "2019 competition winners announced at 63rd BFI London Film Festival" (Press release). BFI. 12 October 2019. Archived from the original on 29 October 2019.

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