As I mentioned before, the month of October has always been about the BFI London Film Festival for me: waiting for the programme announcement and finding the gems, trying to put together a schedule where screenings didn’t clash and then dashing from cinema to cinema to make it on time.
This year, the festival took place online and physically, which had one big plus side: everyone in the UK got a chance to see all the films as well. The thing with a lot of the films that are screened at festivals is that they never make it to the cinemas or get a big release, so it can be the only chance to catch them ever.
A few weeks before the festival you could buy tickets for selected time slots and then add it on to the BFI player – the Video on Demand streamer for the London Film Festival. On the day itself you had to press ‘play’ within one hour and after that you usually would have 12 hours to finish watching it.
It sounded ideal, but the downside was that some films are just meant to be seen in the cinema and that definitely showed with a few of them, and of course, I was hit by the lack of good popcorn, my homemade batch was just not as salty.
I must admit I did miss the post film discussion where you hear everyone excitedly chatting about the film, though this is kind of replicated on social media. On top of that, it was a shame to miss the big promotions, red carpets and posters everywhere, plus the slim chance you might bump into a director or star in Soho or in the cinema foyer.
However, online, booking tickets was so much easier, there was a higher chance of actually getting tickets for the films you wanted to see, and the schedule meant I didn’t have to take off as much time off from work to catch everything I wanted. So it was a bit of a mixed bag.
I watched a total of 11 carefully picked films and I can recommend the below 9 to everyone.
Limbo – A brutal but also comedic movie about a Syrian musician waiting out his asylum request on a remote Scottish island.
One Night In Miami – One Night in Miami is a fictional account of one night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s. Really inspiring performances all mainly set in one motel room.
Druk – A thought-provoking drama that asks if a regular tipple is the key to unlocking the best version of yourself. One of those movies I needed. The final scene has been one of my favourites in a long long time.
Kajillionaire – A quirky family of unusually creative grifters try to scam the system in Miranda July’s deadpan, offbeat love story.
Stray – This charming documentary shows life on the streets of Istanbul from the lowdown perspective of its stray dogs.
Mogul Mowgli – Riz Ahmed plays a British-Pakistani rapper spiralling out of control when, on the cusp of success, he succumbs to a debilitating illness.
Supernova – Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci shine as a long-term couple dealing with the onset of illness in this warm and tender drama. I was expecting a very different film so it hit me extra hard.
Mangrove – Steve McQueen’s rousing tale of Black solidarity and resistance brings a seminal moment in British history into sharp focus.
Wolfwalkers – The sweet and emotional story of a young apprentice hunter in the 1600s who’s torn between the real world of her hunter father and the magical spiritual forests home to a tribe rumored to transform into wolves by night.
As quite a lot of the festivals have gone virtual, chances are some of the above films will come to a screen in your house where you can watch them from the comfort of your own couch. Most of them will be geo blocked so make sure to Google to find the best one near you.
DOK Leipzig, Germany
Dates: October 26 – November 1
What I’d watch: Children, Downstream to Kinshasa
Raindance Film Festival, UK
Dates: October 28 – November 7
What I’d watch: Nafi’s Father, Force of Habit
Leiden International Film Festival, Netherlands
Dates: October 29 – 8 November
What I’d watch: Holler, The Macaluso Sisters
London Korean Film Festival, UK
Dates: October 29 – November 12
What I’d watch: Bori, Pawn
IDFA – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dates: November 18 – December 6
What I’d watch: The Fog of Srebrenica, Flower Punk