What's On At The 61st BFI London Film Festival?

500 Days Of Film Reviews 2017's BFI London Film Festival Programme

Comprising 242 feature films screened in 15 cinemas over 12 days, the full programme of the 61st BFI London Film Festival (LFF) makes for an exciting read. From the event's opening gala (Andy Serkis' Breathe) to its closing film (Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) there are so many must-see films to choose from.


I am excited for such films as Guillermo del Toro's The Shape Of Water, Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here, Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, Sean Baker's The Florida Project and many, many more.


LFF will host 28 world premieres, nine international premieres and 34 European premieres. The feature films will include: 46 documentaries, 6 animations, 14 archive restorations and 16 artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 128 short films, and 67 countries are represented across short film and features.




Each evening of the Festival will see a Headline Gala presentation at Odeon Leicester Square. Meanwhile, films in Official Competition and Strand Galas will be presented at the 820-seat Embankment Garden Cinema.


LFF opens with the European Premiere of Breathe - the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. Andrew Garfield stars as Robin Cavendish, a man paralysed by polio whilst in Africa and given just months to live. Against all advice, Robin’s wife Diana (Claire Foy) brings him home from hospital where her devotion and witty determination inspire him to lead a long and fulfilled life. 



The Festival closes with Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This darkly comic drama sees Mildred Hayes (portrayed by Frances McDormand) take a stand against the town's revered chief of police, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) after months have passed without a culprit being found in her daughter’s murder case.



Meanwhile, LFF’s Headline Galas include: 

  • Journey’s End
  • The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
  • Last Flag Flying
  • You Were Never Really Here
  • The American Express Gala: Battle Of The Sexes
  • Mayor Of London’s Gala: Call Me By Your Name
  • The BFI Patrons’ Gala: Downsizing
  • the May Fair Hotel Gala: Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
  • Royal Bank Of Canada Gala: Mudbound
  • American Airlines Gala: The Shape Of Water

Strand And Festival Galas

LFF’s Festival Gala is The Florida Project. There has already been much buzz surrounding Sean Baker’s film about childhood innocence set within America’s failed economy.


Meanwhile Strand Galas comprise:

  • Dare Gala: Amant Double
  • Family Gala: The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales
  • Thrill Gala: Blade Of The Immortal
  • Debate Gala: Foxtrot
  • Laugh Gala: The Meyerowitz Stories
  • Love Gala: On Chesil Beach
  • Create Gala: Redoubtable
  • Archive Gala: Shiraz: A Romance Of India
  • Cult Gala: Thelma
  • Journey Gala: Wonderstruck

Awards And Competitions

The BFI London Film Festival Awards celebrate the highest creative achievements of British and international filmmakers showcased in its Competitive sections. The winners in each competition are selected by festival juries and announced at the LFF Awards on Saturday 14 October.


The Best Film Award is presented to the winner of the Official Competition; the Sutherland Award is presented to the winner of the First Feature Competition and the Grierson Award is presented to the winning film in the Documentary Competition.


Director, Paul Greengrass, will be presented with the BFI Fellowship award at this year’s Awards ceremony.



The Official Competition recognises inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking and includes the following shortlisted titles:

  • Robin Campillo, 120 BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
  • Majid Majidi, BEYOND THE CLOUDS (World Premiere)
  • Nora Twomey, THE BREADWINNER (European Premiere)
  • Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, GOOD MANNERS
  • Xavier Beauvois, THE GUARDIANS (European Premiere)
  • Andrew Haigh, LEAN ON PETE
  • Andrey Zvyagintsev, LOVELESS
  • Azazel Jacobs, THE LOVERS (European Premiere)
  • Warwick Thornton, SWEET COUNTRY
  • Cory Finley, THOROUGHBRED (International Premiere)
  • Annemarie Jacir, WAJIB




Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition (recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut) are:

  • Daniel Kokotajlo, APOSTASY
  • Léa Mysius, AVA
  • Michael Pearce, BEAST (European Premiere)
  • Ofir Raul Graizer, THE CAKEMAKER
  • Gilles Coulier, CARGO
  • Kogonada, COLUMBUS
  • Rungano Nyoni, I AM NOT A WITCH
  • Léonor Serraille, JEUNE FEMME
  • Carla Simón, SUMMER 1993
  • Hlynur Pálmason, WINTER BROTHERS
  • John Trengove, THE WOUND


The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year, the Festival is screening:

  • Maryam Goormaghtigh, BEFORE SUMMER ENDS
  • Elvira Lind, BOBBI JENE
  • Arash Kamali Sarvestani, Behrouz Boochani, CHAUKA, PLEASE TELL US THE TIME (International Premiere)
  • Radu Jude, THE DEAD NATION
  • Agnès Varda, JR, FACES PLACES
  • Austin Lynch, Matthew Booth, GRAY HOUSE
  • Brett Morgen, JANE (European Premiere)
  • Lucy Cohen, KINGDOM OF US (World Premiere)
  • Emmanuel Gras, MAKALA


The Short Film Award recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. This year the Festival is screening:

  • Gabriel Abrantes, THE ARTIFICIAL HUMORS
  • Phil Collins, DELETE BEACH
  • Billie Pleffer, FYSH (International Premiere)
  • Anna Cazenave Cambet, GABBER LOVER
  • Karishma Dube, GODDESS
  • Aegina Brahim, LAWS OF THE GAME
  • Jonathan Vinel, MARTIN CRIES
  • Patrick Bresnan THE RABBIT HUNT
  • Kibwe Tavares, ROBOT & SCARECROW
  • Kazik Radwanski, SCAFFOLD
  • Harry Lighton, WREN BOYS (World Premiere)

Special Events And Presentations

LFF will feature eight Special Presentations that will shine the spotlight on new work from major directors:

  • Dark River - Clio Barnard
  • Happy End - Michael Haneke
  • The Party - Sally Potter
  • Zama - Lucrecia Martel
  • A Fantastic Woman - Sebastián Lelio
  • The Final Year (documentary special presentation) - Greg Barker
  • Looking For Oum Kulthum - Shirin Neshat
  • Mindhunter - David Fincher

The Festival will also host events (called LFF Connects) that feature artists working at the intersection of film and other creative industries and Screen Talks - a series of in-depth interviews with leaders in contemporary cinema. Participants this year include Julian Rosefeldt and Cate Blanchett, David Fincher, Demis Hassabis, Nitin Sawhney, Johan Knattrup Jensen, Ian McEwan and Takashi Miike.


Social And Political Issues

LFF prides itself as being a “vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas, with films stimulating debate and shining a light on pressing social and political issues”. This year, the Festival includes such talking points as:

  • LBGT - In the year of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Festival presents a powerful LGBT line-up.
  • Immigration and Social Division - These two themes are explored by filmmakers who are committed to telling powerful and complex stories about borders – both real and psychological.
  • Black Star - Following the BFI’s landmark season celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors in film, LFF cites recent world events as giving new urgency to questions of opportunity, and basic human rights.
  • Visionaries - LFF’s states that many filmmakers this year “impress with the singularity and power of their vision, with keen imagination and dazzling style”.
  • Thrill - According to LFF, it is “a very strong year for global thrill seekers at the Festival, with a particularly strong showing from East Asia, which comes as the BFI embarks on the UK-wide season BFI Thriller, exploring how the genre reflects societal upheavals, fears and anxieties”.
  • Strong Women - The Festival continues to promote the work of strong women behind and in front of the camera. At this year’s Festival, 61 women directors are represented in the feature film selection, approximately 25% of the programme.
  • Deafness and Disability - LFF admits that the film industry “still has a long way to go in terms of representation for disabled people”. The LFF industry programme will include a partnership event on equality of opportunity and expression for deaf and disabled people working in film and television.

What Do You Think Of LFF’s Line-Up?

What do you think of this years BFI London Film Festival? 


It is certainly going to be an exciting (and busy) two weeks. Will you be attending? If not, what film festivals have you attended?


I’d love to know in the comments section below or let’s chat over on Twitter or Facebook (@500DaysOfFilm). 

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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