London Film Festival History


The First London Film Festival

History of the London Film Festival starts in 1953. It was 1953 when a group of film critics called for organisation of a film festival in London. They argued that just like other major European cities such as Cannes, Venice and Berlin, London should have its film festival too.

The first London Film Festival was organised by the director of the British Film Institute (BFI), James Quinn at the National Film Theatre (today’s BFI Southbank) in the same year. The Festival opened on 16 October, only one day after the opening of the National Film Theatre. It screened a selection of films by renowned film-makers that also appeared in other prestigious film festivals.

“Festival of Festivals”

The London Film Festival was originally conceived as a “festival of festivals” and screened only the best films from a selection of the best film-makers. Over time, however, the number of screened films increased to include new talents from the world of motion pictures. But since the very first Festival, it is above all a public festival and the screenings do not differ much from the usual cinema screenings with the exception of the awards that are presented annually in the categories Best Film, Best British Newcomer, the Southerland Award and the Grierson Award for Best Documentary. But in the recent years, the Festival also attracts a growing number of film celebrities and journalists from around the globe. Nevertheless, the organisers remain true to the original concept which is to enable the audience to see films that otherwise may not make it into the British cinemas and of course, to see films that will be released in the near future.

Another notable feature of the London Film Festival that has received excellent reception from the audience are the so-called questions and answers sessions. They are accompanied by some films and enable the public to get an insight into the film and its background from the perspective of the director or an actor, and sometimes also to ask questions.

About the British Film Institute (BFI)

The London Film Festival is unimaginable without the British Film Institute (BFI). The latter was founded by the Royal Charter in 1933 and has been organising the London Film Festival since 1953. The BFI also organises the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival as well as the Future Film Festival which is intended for the youngest film enthusiasts. Other activities of the BFI include:

The BFI also runs a reference library, maintains the Summary of Information on Film and Television (SIFT) database and together with the BBC, occasionally co-creates television series featuring footage.

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