The BFI London Film Festival has a new director, Clare Stewart. She replaces Sandra Hebron who did a great deal to enhance the status of the festival with its three different audiences of cinephiles, film industry professionals and the general London filmgoing public. Ms Stewart has decided to consolidate the move towards more prominence for the three competitions: ‘First Feature’, ‘Documentary’ and ‘Best Film’. More controversially, at least for me, is the shift to ‘themed’ strands in the main the programme, so now festivalgoers can choose from strands such as Love, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Debate etc. I can only assume that this wheeze was dreamed up by a marketing section – no doubt after extensive consultation. If your aim is to find all the new films from France or East Asia, Britain or Latin America, the 108 page guide isn’t going to help you much.
The festival opened on October 10th and I booked early to get the best seats, choosing films over three days at Southbank and the Renoir and aiming for the quieter periods. Despite being told that screenings were sold out, there were plenty of seats vacant at the front of the auditoria on the first couple of days of the festival. I’m trying hard to report from the screenings, but finding the Wifi connections is not as straightforward as it should be – oh to be in Cornerhouse or the National Media Museum! Reports to follow soon!