London Film Festival 2020: 24 things to watch at the online event
James R | On 16, Sep 2020
It’s almost October, which means one thing: it’s time for the London Film Festival. Running from 7th to 18th October, this year’s event takes place digitally as well as in person, with cinemas across the UK joining in to host special preview screenings.
Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland and Francis Lee’s Ammonite are the hot tickets of the festival, along with opening night film Mangrove, part of Steve McQueen’s upcoming BBC anthology series Small Axe. All of these films, though, like Pixar’s Soul, can only be seen on the big screen – for a list of participating venues at this year’s LFF, click here. A late addition to the festival is Amazon Studios’ One Night in Miami, the directorial debut of Regina King, although that will also only be showing in cinemas.
But for those unable to get to a cinema, or those uncomfortable with seeing a film in a cinema environment during the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s festival also includes a wealth of cinema available online, with BFI Player streaming more than 40 titles to rent.
Each digital premiere will have a specific starting time. Most films will require you to start watching within 30 minutes of that time, although some films will have a longer, 72-hour window to hit play. Once you’ve begun streaming a film, you’ll have a three-hour window to finish.
Tickets go on sale to BFI Members at 10am on Wednesday 16th September and to the general public at 10am on Monday 21st September. You can buy tickets for screenings on BFI Player or at BFI Southbank, with a small allocation of tickets available on the day for every cinema screening. Individual tickets to cinema screenings cost £14 (for the BFI Southbank), while virtual premieres cost £12 per view. (For screenings at participating cinemas, you’ll need to be book via their own websites and ticket release dates may vary.)
For our full guide to what films are showing where and how it all works, click here.
What should be on your festival watchlist this year? We round up 24 things to stream:
After Love (Online & In Cinemas)
Aleem Khan’s BBC and BFI Film-backed debut gives centre stage to the always-excellent Joanna Scanlan, who plays a widower left reeling upon discovering her late husband’s secrets, rooted across the Channel in Calais. Selected for this year’s cancelled Cannes Film Festival, this is a chance to see the film in full. Read our review
Showing online: 15th to 18th October, 18.30
Supernova (Online & In Cinemas)
Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci star in Harry Macqueen’s latest film, a moving drama about Sam and Tusker, whose 20 years of life together is shattered by Tucker’s diagnosis of early onset dementia. They travel across the country in their campervan revisiting places and loved ones from their past. Read our review
Showing online: 11th October, 20.30 to 21.00
Shirley (Online & In Cinemas)
Elisabeth Moss. Michael Stuhlbarg. Josephine Decker. The names alone involved in this biopic of horror fiction queen Shirley Jackson are reason to watch, as we see the author inspired by the arrival of two young newlyweds at her home. Read our review
Showing online: 9th to 12th October, 18.30
Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon have dazzled time and again with Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells. They return with this animated adventure set in the 17th century, a time of superstition and magic but also a time when the Irish city of Kilkenny is occupied by Cromwell’s forces. It follows a young apprentice hunter, Robyn Goodfellowe, as she journeys to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last wolf pack. While exploring the forbidden lands outside the city walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl, Mebh, a member of a mysterious tribe rumoured to have the ability to transform into wolves by night. The film will be released by Apple TV+ later this year. Read our review
Showing online: 10th October, 18.30 to 19.00
A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura (Online)
Hirokazu Koreeda’s films are always top of our watchlist, but this is a rare chance to see his TV work. This charming series follows actor Kasumi Arimura playing a fictional version of herself, as she enjoys a day off. Read our review
Showing online: 10th to 13th October, 13.00
David Byrne’s American Utopia (Online & In Cinemas)
David Byrne’s hit Broadway show American Utopia comes to the screen, exploring our responsibility to care for one another – with Spike Lee capturing it all at the helm. Read our review
Showing online: 14th October, 20.45 to 21.15
Herself (Online & In Cinemas)
Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) reunites with her all-female Shakespeare collaborators, Clare Dunne and Harriet Walter, for this drama about a woman who refuses to be broken. Read our review
Showing online: 8th October, 18.30 to 19.00
Mogul Mowgli (Online & In Cinemas)
Riz Ahmed stars and co-writes this debut from director Bassam Tariq, which follows a British-Pakistani rapper as his life spirals out of control due to a debilitating illness. Read our review
Showing online: 10th to 13th October, 18.30
Time (Online & In Cinemas)
Garrett Bradley’s Sundance award-winning documentary follows a single mother campaigning for the release of her husband, sentenced to life without parole for a botched armed robbery. Read our review
Showing online: 11th October, 14.10 to 14.40
Undine (Online & In Cinemas)
Paula Beer (Frantz) plays a historian of Berlin urbanism, who is undergoing a romantic crisis when she has a literally explosive encounter with industrial diver Christoph (Beer’s Transit co-star Franz Rogowski). Christian Petzold returns with this playful take on the mermaid myth. Read our review
Showing online: 12th to 15th October, 18.30
Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger play a family of unusually creative grifters trying to scam the system in Miranda July’s latest. Read our review
Showing online: 7th October, 21.00 to 21.30
It’s been eight years since Antiviral and now, Brandon Cronenberg is ready to return for another slice of body horror. Starring Andrea Riseborough, it follows a ruthless assassin who uses other people’s bodies to carry out execution-style killings in the near future. Read our review
Showing online: 16th October, 21.00 to 21.30
Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevyn and Bella Heathcote star in Natalie Erika James’ horror about three generations of women plagued by a supernatural presence. Read our review
Showing online: 9th to 12th October, 20.45
Abel Ferrara reunites with Willem Dafoe for this vivid rumination on sex, dreams and death. As you do.
Showing online: 10th October, 20.30 to 21.00
The Reason I Jump (Online)
Jerry Rothwell’s documentary is based on Naoki Higashida’s ground-breaking memoir, in which a 13-year-old nonspeaking autistic boy brilliantly describes his perception of the world. Read our review
Showing online: 9th October, 20.45 to 21.15
Ben Sharrock’s follow-up to Pikadero follows a Syrian musician waiting out his asylum request on a remote Scottish island.
Showing online: 16th October, 18.30 to 19.00
Another Round (Online & In Cinemas)
Mads Mikkelsen reunites with Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) in this thought-provoking drama that asks if a regular tipple is the key to unlocking the best version of yourself. Read our review
Showing online: 14th October, 18.30 to 19.00
Zanka Contact (Online)
Fresh from the Venice Film Festival, Ismaël el Iraki’s blazing feature debut is a psychedelic Casablanca-set love story between faded rockstar Larsen Snake and jaded sex worker Rajae.
Showing online: 16th to 19th October, 21.00
Rose: A Love Story (Online)
The LFF’s genre line-up continues to impress with the world premiere of this story about a young couple living alone in the woods, who must contend with a life-altering illness that manifests itself in a violent and terrifying way. Rose’s disease? A vampiric, parasitic thirst for blood. Read our review
Showing online: 13th to 16th October, 20.30
One Man and His Shoes (Online)
South Londoner Yemi Bamiro’s documentary charts the story Air Jordan sneakers, exploring their social and cultural significance, as well as the darker side of commodification and commercial marketing. Read our review
Showing online: 13th to 16th October, 18.30
Genus Pan (Online)
Visionary Filipino director Lav Diaz returns with this allegory of human greed and brutality.
Showing online: 11th to 14th October, 17.30
After vanishing from her quiet border town in Northern Ireland, Kelly (Nika McGuigan) shows up a year later on the doorstep of her sister, Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone). Fresh from the Toronto International Film Festival, Cathy Brady’s debut is a tale of two sisters — and a country — struggling to emerge from their past. Read our review
Showing online: 10th to 13th October, 20.30
LFF Expanded (Online)
The London Film Festival follows in the footsteps of Venice, Raindance and more with this exciting new strand dedicated to XR and Immersive art. Available for free in a limited space at BFI Southbank (tickets are released on 1st October), you can also experience them from home using your own headset – also for free.
Showing online: Throughout the festival
This year’s London Film Festival won’t leave you feeling short, with the festival’s entire line-up of short films available to watch online for free, taking us from the backstreets of Accra in Ghana to the Australian Outback, exploring self-discovery, stories of resilience and how music, film, faith, costumes and colour lift our spirits and allow us to dream.
Showing online: Throughout the festival