The BFI London Film Festival returns to the capital and cinemas around the UK on Wednesday, in what organisers are expecting to be an “emotional” return to the big screen.
The festival will open with the world premiere of western The Harder They Fall, starring Idris Elba and Regina King, which will have a star-studded headline gala at London’s Royal Festival Hall and will also screen around the country.
The film will also be shown to audiences at Chapter Cardiff, Edinburgh Filmhouse, Glasgow Film Theatre, HOME Manchester, Showroom Cinema Sheffield, Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, Warwick Arts Centre, Queen’s Film Theatre Belfast, Watershed Bristol and Broadway Nottingham at the same time as the London unveiling.
It is one of 16 movies on the festival line-up that will screen around the country in a bid to make the event more accessible to more people.
Also included is the closing night film, The Tragedy Of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.
The festival was largely virtual in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Festival director Tricia Tuttle told the PA news agency: “It’s been an ambition of the festival since 2013/14 that we take some elements of the festival out to audiences outside of London.
“But we were never as ambitious as we were last year when we had to completely remodel the festival for the pandemic.
“We worked in partnership with eight venues last year and this year we’ve brought that back into the model, and we’re going to 10 venues instead of eight.
“What we’ve done is possibly lose a bit of the London audience, not much because there’s still loads of capacity, but gain some audience outside of London.
“There’s so much wonderful investment and so many great films in London that we want there to be benefit for our audiences out of London. It’s also creating bigger impact for those films.
“We really, really want to use the festival to try to elevate and shine a spotlight on important independent work and work from around the world. So that selection that’s gone to the venues outside of London includes films from all over the world.
“We’ve also brought back some of the virtual premieres that we had in 2020, which worked so well.
“We’ve got 27 feature films screening on the BFI Player and those are timed festival premieres for people who either can’t come because they don’t live in London or don’t feel ready to go to cinema, so they can have opportunities to to experience the festival as well.
“Then we have 65 short films screening free on the BFI Player for the whole of the festival.”
Among the highlights at the in-person festival in London will be the premiere of the third series of US drama Succession, the unveiling of Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales in Spencer, and Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch, starring McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lea Seydoux and Benicio Del Toro.
Screenings will be held at capacity and Tuttle said she expects it to be a heightened experience for many attendees.
She said: “People who’ve been to theatre will have experienced this, if you’ve seen Bond on a big screen you’ll have experienced this, but that first moment you walk into a packed auditorium, it is a little bit freaky – we haven’t been there in two years, really.
“But then there is also something really electrifying and magical, the thing that happens when you sit in a dark and watch a film with other people is irreplaceable.
“It really is special, it does transform the way that you watch the work. So I can’t wait. I think people are going to be quite moved, I think it’s going to be quite emotional and so much fun.
“I think what you see with Bond and what you see with the festival is that right now people are still cautious, but if it’s something that feels like a real event, they do want to go out.
“We might be part of opening up this experience for people again, and… cinemas are really safe and really, really, really working hard to keep audiences safe as well.”
The BFI London Film Festival runs until Sunday October 17.