BFI London Film Festival announces free programme of talks and events

More huge news as the 64th BFI London Film Festival , in partnership with American Express, has announced a programme of Screen Talks and events that will take place across the 12-day Festival period and free to access via YouTube and the BFI social channels. Additional events focused on XR and immersive art will also take place inside of the LFF’s newly created virtual exhibition space The Expanse and its virtual theatre. All talks and events are free and accessible to both UK and international audiences.

Actors Riz Ahmed and Letitia Wright will join filmmakers Michel Franco, Miranda July, Tsai Ming-liang, Christian Petzold, musician and performer David Byrne and artist Es Devlin (as part of LFF Expanded), for a series of LFF Screen Talks offering audiences a unique opportunity to learn about the careers of these renowned creatives. . In addition to Screen Talks, the LFF will also host live salons and discussion events tackling subjects emerging from the films.

In a new initiative, the LFF have worked with BFI Film Academy to support young curators and programmers to develop and produce events designed by them which are of relevance to younger film lovers from 16-25 years old. Both playful and political, these talks touch on issues of identity and representation on-screen as well as the barriers facing young people entering the film industry and developing workable solutions to redress this. Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director said: 

“It was important to us to offer many ways to engage with the Festival for free this year, and we are excited that this incredible range of speakers and talks is available for free, not just to anyone in the U.K., but also wherever you are in the world.”

A series of in-depth talks will also take place virtually during the Festival designed to get audiences thinking and engaged in debate around the pressing issues explored in a number of the Festival titles this year: Anna Bogutskaya, co-founder of horror film collective The Final Girls, leads a conversation exploring the female horror renaissance with some of the most exciting women working in horror today in THE FEMALE HORROR RENAISSANCE, presented by Sight & Sound; British filmmaker Yemi Bamiro, director of ONE MAN AND HIS SHOES, a documentary that tells the story of the phenomenon of Air Jordan sneakers, is joined by sneaker archivist Kish Kash and Jason Coles, author of Golden Kicks: The Shoes that Changed Sport, to discuss the film and explore the history and cultural significance of sneakers; and film critic Kaleem Aftab discuss issues of identity in the depiction of the British Asian experience with AFTER LOVE director Aleem Khan, Hardeep Pandhall (Happy Thuggish Paki) and Dawinder Bansal (Jambo Cinema).

This year’s Treasures strand brings recently restored cinematic classics and discoveries from archives around the world to audiences across the UK and will also present two events based around a key film screening as part of the strand: REFLECTIONS ON FRIENDSHIPS’S DEATH will see actors Bill Paterson and Tilda Swinton, producer Rebecca O’Brien and cinematographer Witold Stok discuss Peter Wollen’s FRIENDSHIP’S DEATH, which has been newly restored by the BFI National Archive, and PETER WOLLEN: WRITING, DIRECTING, POLITICS, FILM is an appreciation of the great auteur’s work with academics and filmmakers Laura Mulvey and Kodwo Eshun and BFI Archivist Wendy Russell.

In partnership with BFI Film Academy, young audiences will be treated to a number of topical and pertinent talks across the Festival including QUEER AND PLEASANT LAND, a panel discussion exploring cinematic answers to the question: what does it mean to be queer in a rural community?; ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE, will offer a rare chance to discuss the possibilities for disabled people to create and provoke with their visual art and PICK ‘N’ FLICKS, where artists Mandla Rae, Ruari Paterson-Achenbach and Yandass Ndlovu – a dancer, a poet and a composer – encounter famous cinematic representations of their craft and explore how film interacts with other art forms. The Festival will also host WHAT’S STOPPING YOUNG PEOPLE GETTING INTO THE FILM INDUSTRY?, an event that will aim to undo some of the barriers disadvantaged young people face in breaking into the film industry. Opening with a screening of a film by one such filmmaker, this event will offer a platform for a broader conversation about these issues and offer practical solutions to them.

LFF Expanded will present a number of original and thought-provoking panel discussions and talks around the medium of VR as well as some very special opportunities to meet the artists and explore pioneering new works including FUTURE RITES & CHAOTIC BODY 1, where acclaimed choreographer Alexander Whitley will give an insight into two of his upcoming immersive dance projects; ARTIST TALK: BRAVE NEW WORLD with the artists behind AGENCE (Anna West and David Callahan) and TO MISS THE ENDING (Pietro Gagliano) – two very different projects dealing with the dystopian possibilities of Artificial Intelligence. There is also the opportunity to explore Baff Akoto’s poetic work LEAVE THE EDGES in the virtual auditorium and listen to the artist talk about his artistic practice, which combines film and immersive technology; and ANTI-GONE, offering audiences the chance to experience a new way of hybrid virtual theatre-making in this extraordinary performance by multi-media artist Theo Triantafyllidis.

CHILL OUT – EXPANSIVELY will also offer audiences a moment to unwind after the busy first weekend of BFI London Film Festival in the Expanse – guests can listen to some chill-out music and exchange their impressions, thoughts and findings of the first days with other visitors, industry colleagues and filmmakers. It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on the works seen during the last few days and connect with other like-minded festivalgoers.

The Festival will culminate in an LFF Audience Awards ceremony with the public taking the place of the Festival’s Official Jury. Viewers engaging with the Festival online will be invited to vote in four categories: Best Fiction Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Short Film, and Best XR.  The winners of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 Virtual LFF Audience Awards and The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI will be revealed during the awards ceremony, which will be broadcast on Sunday 18 October at 19:00 on BFI YouTube and social channels.

The full programme of talks and events can be found here:


Supported by American Express
Thursday 8 October, 18.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Much celebrated Guyanese-British actor Letitia Wright joins us to discuss her stunning performance in our opening film MANGROVE (Steve McQueen), as well as her outstanding career to date. Trained at Identity School of Acting in Hackney, Wright’s first leading role was as troubled teenager Jamie Harrison in Urban Hymn (2015) – a powerful drama that unfolded against the backdrop of the 2011 London riots. Over the past ten years, Wright has played dynamic roles in several feature films and TV series, including a charismatic turn as Shuri in Black Panther (2018), which brought her international recognition. She also appeared in British dramas Top Boy, Banana, Humans, Doctor Who and Black Mirror. Wright was listed among the BAFTA Breakthrough Brits for Urban Hymn and in. 2019 she received the BAFTA Rising Star Award, as well as the Outstanding Performance award from the Screen Actors Guild for Black Panther.

Supported by American Express
Thursday 8 October, 20.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

‘All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life – where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.’ Multi-disciplinary artist Miranda July has charmed the film world with three category-defying feature films: Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), The Future (20011) and now KAJILLIONAIRE, which is one of this festival’s highly anticipated premieres. Like her work as a writer with ‘The First Bad Man’ and ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’, alongside her performance-based visual arts pieces such as her commissions for the V&A and Artangel, July’s films explore the lonely beauty of being human. They chart characters’ attempts to connect with and understand others, despite the cruelty of the world. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Miranda July back to the Festival, for this in-depth talk about her film work.

Supported by BFI Patrons
Friday 9 October, 20.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

With a unique body of work that explores time, space, memory and embodiment, Tsai Ming-liang is one of contemporary cinema’s most distinctive auteurs. He joins us to discuss his distinguished four-decade career, which has encompassed theatre and television work, gallery-based performances and his extraordinary cinematic output. Known as one of the masters of slow cinema, we will delve into Tsai’s unique approach to structuring narrative and framing images. A key voice in the second wave of New Taiwanese filmmakers, Tsai followed his striking debut feature about troubled youth in Taipei, Rebels of the Neon God (1992), with his international breakthrough Vive L’amour (1994). It saw him awarded the prestigious Golden Lion award at the 51st Venice International Film Festival, along with three Golden Horse Film Festival awards for Best Picture, Director and Sound. DAYS, Tsai’s astonishingly beautiful meditation on solitude, premiered in competition at the 2020 Berlinale and won the Jury Teddy Award for LGBTQI+ cinema.

Supported by Nowness

Saturday 10 October, 18.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Few visual artists forge the physical and digital to such astonishing effect in quite the way that London-based artist and designer Es Devlin does. Whether working for the world’s top theatres or exhibition spaces such as National Theatre or the V&A, creating a piece for the Venice Biennale, or designing acclaimed immersive sets for artists like Beyoncé, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd, Devlin’s work is innovative, boundary pushing and always inspirational. Her play with light and digital projection creates sculptural, immersive experiences that draw in audiences, whether she’s working in gallery or public spaces and on any scale. The designer of the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, Devlin’s plaudits include an OBE and three Olivier Awards. As we launch LFF EXPANDED, the first Immersive Art strand at BFI London Film Festival, it’s a huge privilege to welcome this pioneer to talk about her ground-breaking work.

Supported by Time Out
Sunday 11 October, 18.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Multi-talented actor, rapper and activist Riz Ahmed joins us to talk about his career and the making of MOGUL MOWGLI. With his roles in British independent features such as Chris Morris’ Four Lions and Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, the Hollywood blockbusters Jason Bourne, Rogue One and Venom, as well as his Emmy-winning turn in The Night Of, Ahmed’s acting career has been stratospheric. Also known as Riz MC, he won critical acclaim with his albums Microscope and Cashmere, and raps in the band Sweat Shop Boys. In MOGUL MOWGLI, which he co-wrote with director Bassam Tariq, Ahmed plays a British-Pakistani rapper whose life spirals out of control when he succumbs to a debilitating illness. It’s yet another astonishing performance by this gifted performer.

Supported by Porsche
Wednesday 14 October, 20.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Acclaimed German director and screenwriter Christian Petzold joins us to talk about his career and the making of his ninth feature film UNDINE. A master at crafting understated yet deeply atmospheric dramas, Petzold graduated from the German School of Film and Television (dffb), where he met his mentor and frequent collaborator, experimental filmmaker Harun Farocki. An avid cinephile, Petzold is one of the founders of the Berlin School, a filmmaking movement exploring new aesthetics and cinematic expressions. His truly distinctive body includes the acclaimed ‘Love in the Time of Oppressive Systems’ trilogy of Berlin Silver Bear winner Barbara (2012), Phoenix (2014) and Transit (2018).

Supported by Empire
Thursday 15 October, 20.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

David Byrne is the very definition of a polymath. A musician, artist, producer, activist, performer, writer, avid cycling enthusiast, web innovator, filmmaker and passionate campaigner for democracy and human rights. Born in Scotland, raised in Canada and American by nationality, it’s fair to say that many countries would be keen to call him a native son. And then there’s his style, which exists in a state of constant evolution. There are no parameters to his musicality or his interest in fashion. And from his wry humour to the warmth of his rapport with audiences – and not forgetting those booty-shaking dance moves – he is the consummate performer. And the perfect collaborator. He brings so much of himself to each partnership, but also embraces the inspiration that comes from work with such a wide array of creatives, from Jonathan Demme, St Vincent, Brian Eno and Caetano Veloso to Twyla Tharp, Fatboy Slim, Bernardo Bertolucci and now Spike Lee. The acclaimed New York filmmaker was enlisted to direct the fabulous and inspired concert film of Byrne’s American Utopia stage show, which was itself a marvel of collaboration. That film will be the starting point for this talk. But this being David Byrne, who knows where the event will take us. All we know is that it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Supported by Little White Lies
Saturday 17 October, 20.30
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Franco stunned the world with his impressive 2009 feature debut Daniel and Ana, which focussed on a pair of affluent siblings who are kidnapped and forced to endure unfathomable emotional violence. And his star has been rising ever since. He won Un Certain Regard at Cannes with After Lucia (2012) and has attracted huge acclaim with his subsequent films: Through the Eyes (2014), Chronic (2015) and April’s Daughter (2017), as well as building a wide-ranging body of work as a producer, which includes 2019’s extraordinary Workforce. With films that are complex and not so easily categorised, Franco has proven a sharply observant chronicler of the increasing desperation and fury of Mexico’s exploited working class, but is also attuned to the dysfunction and moral decay of the country’s elite. NEW ORDER, which screens in this festival, brings together these two social groups in spectacular fashion, delivering an explosive, dystopian ‘Mexican disaster movie’. In it, the put-upon rise up against the privileged. It’s not an easy watch by any means, but this deserved winner of Venice Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize presciently captures the anger of our times. We’re honoured to welcome Michel Franco to the LFF to talk about his career.

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