Under the inaugural direction of Festival Director Kristy Matheson, the line-up for the London Film Festival’s 67th edition has been announced. Following a string of rumours sparked by other international festivals earlier this year, not only does this programme put all of those to bed, but it represents the diversified culture and creativity that London offers. It’s no wonder that intros to the programme, including that of Matheson’s, focuses on breadth—LFF has carried a large weight on its shoulders for almost seven decades, and given what it will be offering in October, this year is no different.
Our palettes had already been whetted for quite some time. The opening gala film will be Emerald Fennel’s sophomore film Saltburn, ‘a wicked tale of privilege, status and desire’ that brings the brilliantly British bastionary and pomp of Evelyn Waugh-era Oxford into the present day. The closing gala, by contrast, is The Kitchen, a directorial collaboration between filmmaker Kibwe Tavares and actor Daniel Kaluuya, ‘a heartfelt rally against gentrification and a celebration of family and community’. Sitting firmly at either end of British cinema, it makes sense that this pair should bookend the festival, leaving everything else lying between.
But LFF is so much more than that. When Matheson talks about breadth in the programming team’s approach to creating ‘this wondrous blanket of art’, it is so much more than a celebration of Britishness. Of course, we see the long-awaited return of British auteur Jonathan Glazer with The Zone of Interest, the latest installment from contemporary maestro Andrew Haigh and his rally of spellbinding British actors in All of Us Strangers, and a rapturously received return to the big screen from legendary Bristol-born animating studio Aardman with Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. However, these hold stead with the likes of Hollywood big-rigs like David Fincher and Martin Scorsese with The Killer and Killers of the Flower Moon respectively.
Equally, the programme hastily crosses continents with Ladj Ly’s Les Indésirables, a ‘trenchant, furious look at societal fractures in contemporary France’ to match his equally potent polemic Les Misérables (2019), as well as Irish creative duo Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s bio of a self-radicalised IRA volunteer in Baltimore. Evil Does Not Exist, the latest film from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi since his monster hit Drive My Car (2021), must also be mentioned.
This is all part of what Matheson describes as the ‘cinematic mixtape’ that BFI has endeavoured to create for this year’s festival. Film festivals are their own space and have long been capitalised upon to bring comprehensive best-ofs of what the industry has to offer. London Film Festival has this responsibility as much as any, but also has its own geo-specific messages. BFI prides itself in decentralising and democratising cinema in Britain. Part of this comes in how the programme is split up: non-competition films are split up into responses like ‘laugh’, ‘love’ and ‘debate’, while others are defined by the culture that surrounds them, such as ‘cult’, ‘family’ and the mainstay ‘experimenta’.
Matheson and the team at BFI understand that LFF owes its 67 years in action to the people both behind the camera and in front of the screen—carefully organising the festival in this way, paired with festivals u25 discounts, LFF on tour and immersive experiences around London, it’s clear that Matheson’s objective to ‘expand our knowledge and appreciation of cinema’ is a level playing field. While other festivals create a safe space for the beauty, LFF hits the ground running by creating a safe space for the beholder—indeed, as is plastered over programmes and posters alike: ‘everyone is invited’.
Keep an eye out for STRAND Magazine's coverage of LFF 2023! Tickets go on sale 12 September. BFI Members book early on 6 September and American Express® Cardmembers can access presale from 8 September. For more details and to view the programme, click here.