Friday, December 2, 2016

Indefinite Damages: BFI London Film Festival

Sixty years after its first edition, the London Film Festival, whose entire programme once barely amounted to 20 films, now screens 240 titles. Previously a single venue festival, it is now spread over 14 screening locations. One of LFF’s past directors, the aviophobic Richard Roud, used to oversee the New York Film Festival at the same time, having to cross the Atlantic by ship. That dependency on the energy and organisation of one man is a thing of the past; the festival now a colossal event, run by an army of staff and volunteers.

This shift is not just a sign of the times and what London has gone through since the end of the Second World War, but in a broader sense, an indication of the ever-changing function of film festivals; from modest cinephiliac affairs to corporate sponsored business ventures. In these circumstances, a festival-goer’s task is to once again prioritise film as art and discover fresh ideas and innovative approaches to the medium amid the busy and perhaps distracting traffic of a festival.

It should come as no surprise that some of the true gems of LFF are to be found among those films with less publicity and whose catalogue blurbs are not merely uncritical raves, heavy on adverbs but light on insight; films that typically do not receive West End red carpet galas, and are not guaranteed theatrical distribution.


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