It has been confirmed that movies from 77 countries will be shown at the 2021 London Film Festival, as Britain’s leading cinema showcase greets fans back to movie theatres after the very sad pandemic year.
The festival program, declared Tuesday, comprises 158 features, shortlisted from 225 during its last pre-pandemic edition in 2019. The 2020 festival was a curtailed collection of 58 movies, most screened online.
This year, mask-wearing, full-capacity audiences will be able to visit the gala screenings at London’s riverside Southbank Centre, with multiple of the premieres covered simultaneously at movie theatres across the U.K.
About 37% of the movies are directed by women — not yet equivalency, but up from a quarter four years ago and “heading in the right direction,” festival director Tricia Tuttle said.
The festival with be inaugurated on Oct. 6th with the world premiere of The Harder They Fall and ends on Oct. 17th with the European release of Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, featuring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as Shakespeare’s murderous Scottish royals.
The list of movies contains 21 world premieres alongside prize-winners and headline-grabbers from the Cannes and Venice film festivals, containing Jane Campion’s Montana-set Western “The Power of the Dog” and Edgar Wright’s swinging-60s horror romp “Last Night in Soho,” both of which were first aired in Venice this month.
Also on the plan are French director Julia Ducournau’s techno-sexual thriller Titane Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian nun drama Benedetta and Wes Anderson’s whimsical The French Dispatch, both of which also came up first at the French Riviera festival.
The London festival will also star Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Elena Ferrante adaptation The Lost Daughter; Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard, which features Will Smith as the father of Venus and Serena Williams; Kenneth Branagh’s tribute to his home town, Belfast; Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District and Todd Haynes’ music documentary The Velvet Underground.
Another key point on the festival is Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s Spencer — a movie whose first promotion shot of Kristin Stewart as Princess Diana was sufficient to set off an uproar of anticipation.
“I don’t think there’s a film fan alive who doesn’t want to see this film after that still was released,” Tuttle confessed.
Grasping television as well as cinema, the festival is also covering the first two episodes of the third part of media-dynasty drama Succession.
Festival organizers are still sceptical about how the coronavirus pandemic will influence plans for red-carpet premieres and parties. Almost Four-fifths of British adults are fully vaccinated, and there are few constraints on social life. But sicknesses continue to be high and are predicted to climb further now that children are back at school.
Tuttle tells a few movies in the lineup deal explicitly with the pandemic, comprising Matthew Heineman’s documentary The First Wave and 7 Days, a coronavirus romcom about a pair locked down together after a tragic first date.
“We were wary of going too heavily into the pandemic,” Tuttle said. “We’ve just chosen films that charmed us or felt too urgent not to include in the program.”