The BFI London Film Festival (LFF) unveiled its program for 2021 today, featuring 159 feature and 21 premieres, with highlights including the world prem of 20th Century Studios’ Ron’s Gone Wrong, a host of buzz titles from Venice and Cannes, and the European debut of two episodes of HBO’s Succession season three.
Shortly after the launch, Deadline caught up with Festival Director Tricia Tuttle to chat through what audiences and industry can expect from this year’s event.
Tuttle confirmed that cinemas will be full by the time the festival comes around. The government lifted almost all Covid-related protocols back in July, but the British Film Institute has enacted its own rigorous safety guidelines that will only see theaters return to 100% capacity by the end of this month.
The LFF will follow those guidelines for its event. “There is a very precise Covid protocol… we will be at 100% capacity for the festival,” said Tuttle.
The subject of mask-wearing is less definitive. The gov made masks optional for the public when it lifted restrictions in July, and cinemas have followed suit. The LFF will however do what it can to have audiences don their PPE.
“We expect mask-wearing, we ask audiences to be considerate and respect each other’s space,” explained Tuttle. “The guidelines say masks are optional, not a legal requirement, but we expect and encourage audiences to wear them. All of our staff will wear them.”
The decision has not been made yet on how this will be communicated but the expectation is that a graphic will play in front of screenings, which is currently the case at the BFI Southbank cinema.
The festival is expecting a healthy contingent of guests to fly into London to attend their screenings and red carpets. “We’ve had lots of enthusiasm from filmmakers, they want to be here. Where legally possibly we will make it happen, we’re expecting a good turnout, about 80% of filmmakers,” said the director.
On the industry side, the fest doesn’t fly speakers into London but many high-profile guests come to the city to accompany movies and thus are happy to speak on panels. Running over the first weekend, the industry program will be designed to introduce international guests to Brit talent. The vast majority of the sessions will be held physically, with two being held virtually due to availability.
One of the high-profile pieces of content programmed this year isn’t a film at all, but episode one and two of HBO’s hit series Succession. Tuttle gives all the credit to her series programmer, Rowan Woods (“our secret weapon”), who has put together the new series strand, which features eight TV shows in total.
The Succession screening will mark the show’s Euro premiere ahead of a yet-to-be-defined broadcast date in the U.S. and UK. Deadline understands the show will first have a non-festival world premiere screening in the States before it heads to London where it will show on October 15, with many of the cast and crew expected to be in attendance. That date means audiences will be waiting until at least the second half of the month for the show to return to TV sets.
The BFI London Film Festival runs October 6 – 17.