The 65th Annual London Film Festival took place again this year in person and virtually, hosting 159 feature films and 21 world premieres.

From the 6th-17th October, hundreds of film lovers, critics, and members of the film industry woke up before the break of dawn, rushing out of their flats and houses, lethargic and in desperate need of their daily caffeine fix. First, they stand in line for an hour hoping to get into a screening and then finally after their fingers have gone numb and their eyes begin to feel heavy due to their fatigue, they are allowed into the cinema to watch the glorious film they have been waiting for. Whether that be a much-anticipated feature film or an independent short, at 8 am the West End’s Vue never failed to be bustling with life. 


The first film I saw was Last Night in Soho. A film about a girl from Cornwall who moves to London with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but realises that this city isn’t at all what she expected it to be. A compelling storyline with a shocking twist that changes your entire perception of characters and the world the film lives in. Last Night in Soho was a film that built tension perfectly, keeping us in the audience on the edge of our seats, never knowing what path the story would follow. The outstanding feature of the film was how connected I felt I was with the protagonist, Ellie. As a member of the audience, you develop a bond with this character, deeper than the near two hours that she was on screen. Last Night in Soho was the perfect beginning to my London Film Festival experience and I left the cinema that day excited about what was to come next and full of anticipation for the films I would get to see. 


On Friday the 15th, I attended a screening of King Richard. A biographical film that focused on the father of Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams, and his determination to ensure his daughters were world number one and the greatest of all time. To me, King Richard told the story of family, love, sacrifice, and how that sacrifice can transpire into success. This was definitely the most impactful film I saw during the film festival, the message of the film and storyline was simply beautiful. The story of two young black girls, who strive to be the best is one that is motivating but seeing the work of their father behind them is also incredibly inspiring. The film is a human one, Richard is not the perfect father, the perfect husband, or even the perfect person but he cares about his children more than anything in the world and desires to see them succeed in everything that they do. It is the tale of a man who has been broken by the world, a man who in the eyes of the world is broken but puts his heart and soul into making sure that the world can never break his children. Not to mention, the incredible performances from the cast, the beautiful cinematography, and fantastic production design, King Richard was surely a standout of the London Film Festival.


The final film I saw was the Tragedy of Macbeth, it was the last of the delegates screenings and took place in the Southbank Centre. There was a lot of anticipation around this film, the star-studded cast, Joel Coen’s role as director and of course the source material - one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth. The film itself was nothing short of a masterpiece, it was shot in black and white which added to the eerie world in which the film exists. The set design was very minimalistic, which worked to the film’s advantage as at times it felt like you were watching the play instead of a film. This particular feature of the Tragedy of Macbeth allowed the powerful words of Macbeth, Macduff, and Lady Macbeth to be truly listened to, their greed, their grief, their sorrow was communicated in a way that is rarely seen in film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. This, along with the transfixing cinematography and the breathtaking sound design is the reason why Coen’s Tragedy of Macbeth was one of the best modern adaptations of the renowned play that people have grown to be mesmerised by.


Before my final day at the London Film Festival concluded, I attended Eulogy by Darkfield, an immersive experience that acted as my final event of the London Film Festival. On the outside, it just looked like a shipping container placed outside of the National Theatre in Southbank, and on the inside, it was quite similar, except there were headphones hung on cage-like metal wring where each person would sit, in each of our areas there were cushions to make us feel more comfortable but after you are plunged into darkness, even the plush pillow couldn’t soothe the anxiety or unease that was felt around the container. Initially, you feel fear, you hear the rattle of cages and an unfamiliar voice and you can’t see a thing but by the end of the 30 minutes spent in the container, you are left with a deep sense of confusion, unanswered questions but mostly a longing to find out more and to delve deeper into the story so you can explore this hotel even further. Eulogy was something different, something that was completely out of my comfort zone and I am so glad that the 65th London Film festival included this interactive experience to show the range of art that can be created and cultivated to entice an audience.


Overall, experiencing my first ever film festival was extraordinary, eleven days that I definitely will not forget. The operations of the festival were smooth and every day my emails were flooded with messages from the BFI encouraging me to see the films they had online and in person. Getting the experience to watch a large range of films from lots of different directors was spectacular and I can’t wait to attend again and to delve deeper into the world of cinema.