London Film Festival is easier than ever to watch this year - here's everything you need to know

5 October 2020, 15:21 | Updated: 7 October 2020, 04:36

While the coronavirus pandemic has led to some film festivals cancelling, some going entirely virtual, and some attempting to crack on as normal, the 64th London Film Festival is going with a hybrid model - so is both physical and virtual this year.

It means movie fans can watch featured films either at socially distanced screenings, or from the comfort of their own living rooms.

Not sure if you want to get involved? We've got your questions answered below.

It's called the London Film Festival and I don't live in the city so there's nothing for me, right?

Actually, no. As well as virtual screenings, this year's festival has expanded physical screenings across the country so you can catch films in cinemas in Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield - and yes, in London as well.

And organisers say they aren't seeing this as a one-off due to the coronavirus pandemic. You can expect future LFFs to stick to the hybrid model with regional screenings, hopefully making it more accessible than it has been previously.

Aren't some film-makers put off by the movies showing virtually instead of just in cinemas?

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts says this is not the case, telling Sky News: "We've all spent the last six months adapting and being excited by the possibilities of this new approach, so film-makers have been incredibly collegiate.

"Obviously if you're a film-maker, what's important is that your film is being seen by an audience, and if anything what we're offering now is the opportunity for films to be seen beyond one venue, which is typically the set-up with a festival.

"You look at someone like Steve McQueen - he's actually gone the other way and said, I really want you to do this and in fact I want to make the screenings available for free."

Tell me more about this free Steve McQueen movie...

The Oscar-winning British director is opening the festival with Mangrove - one of his new Small Axe anthology series - which is getting its European premiere.

The film tells the true story of a group of black activists in 1970 who were charged after protesting police harassment, and the high-profile trial that followed. Starring Letitia Wright, reviews are already positive.

And if you don't manage to catch this one, McQueen is also showing another of the anthology films, Lovers Rock, later in the festival.

What else is showing?

It's a compressed line-up compared to previous years that have featured hundreds of films, so there are just 58 movies to choose from - including fiction, documentary, animation, short film, restored classics and previews of series made for the small screen.

As always, the opening and closing night features are headline grabbers, so as well as Mangrove it's worth knowing about Ammonite - a love story starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, which will close the event on 18 October.

Will there be lots of stars walking the red carpets?

Nope. No red carpet events this year so don't expect to see footage of celebs in masks and distanced photographers.

There are some starry screen talks taking place - including one by George Clooney - but they will be virtual events so no need to worry about getting to Leicester Square in time to catch a glimpse of your favourite actor.

How can I get tickets?

Whether you want to access streams or get tickets for a physical cinema, your best bet is to head to the LFF section of the BFI website - but don't hang around, even the virtual screenings have limited numbers.

Anything else showing that I should know about?

The films have been carefully curated so any of them should be worth a punt, but the ones that are already receiving a bit of buzz include:

  • American Utopia - director Spike Lee's concert film of David Byrne's Broadway stage-show version of solo album American Utopia
  • Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand in a role some are saying she'll get another Oscar for
  • Supernova, by the ex-Eastender Harry Macqueen, which stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a couple on a road trip
  • Time, an acclaimed documentary about the impact a severe prison sentence has on a family in the US

What about the future of the festival - as some films had to stop shooting, will there be enough to choose from in 2021?

Mr Roberts says he is confident things will level out - but the pandemic may have a different impact on the event.

"I think actually things will be back to normal by this time next year - lots of films that were shot are being held and they're being put into a new release pattern... big studio films have been shooting for a couple of months now and independent films - the kind of films you're seeing a lot of in this year's festival - are now getting back under way and back into production.

"So I suspect there will be plenty for us to choose from next year, but it'll be interesting to see what the mood of film-making is looking like.

"If not next year, the year after - how has this period of disruption and change affected what people are making. That will be interesting in the years ahead."

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 7 to 18 October