Neither shaken nor stirred by the current climate, and rolling with this year’s seemingly unending string of punches with remarkable aplomb, the 2020 edition of the BFI London Film Festival will be unlike any that have preceded it. The big news is that this year’s terrific selection of the world’s best new films will be made available to cinema lovers right across the UK.

Whether you would still prefer to treat yourself to one of fifty-five online UK premières in the comfort of your own home or if you are keen to get out to see them on the big screen, there are a number of options open to you. Select cinemas in Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Nottingham, Sheffield, Belfast and Cardiff will all be showing films from the LFF programme along with several different venues in London: the Barbican, BFI Southbank, Ciné Lumière, Curzons Soho and Mayfair, ICA and Prince Charles Cinema. 

With events happening across the UK to mark Black History Month throughout October, the release of Steve McQueen’s Mangrove – and its selection as the Opening Night film of the festival – could not be timelier. One instalment of the five-part Small Axe anthology, it details the activism of the Mangrove 9 and their 1970 trial in the face of racism within the MET police; McQueen’s latest film is definitely not one to miss. Elsewhere, though the ongoing Covid pandemic has affected productions and delayed releases around the world, and there are fewer films playing at the festival in 2020, quality over quantity is definitely the name of the game.  

Each of the feature film strands again boast highlights from the best of British and films from around the world: standouts in the Laugh category are Miranda July’s Kajillionaire and Małgorzata Szumowska’s Never Gonna Snow Again; a bumper Journey section gives you a wealth of choice, including The Hunt director Thomas Vinterberg’s latest Another Round, Nomadland – for which director Chloé Zhao and the ever-magnificent Frances McDormand are already garnering plaudits – and for something completely different, Elizabeth Lo’s Stray.

Documentary fans are spoilt for choice by this year’s programme. Stray is just one of a formidable selection – make sure to also seek out The Reason I JumpThe Painter and the Thief, Fire At Sea director Gianfranco Rosi’s latest project NotturnoUltraviolence and Time. Covering all strands, there is undoubtedly something for all tastes and interests. For movie lovers in need of something bold, stirring or downright terrifying the Dare (Mogul MowgliShirleySiberia), Debate (200 Meters, One Man and His ShoesAfrican Apocalypse) and Cult (PossessorRelic) strands have you covered. And furthermore, there are old Treasures to re-discover and Family features as well as a wealth of ExperimentaShort Films and the immersive LFF Expanded.  

But it’s not all doom, gloom and seriousness, the BFI have got crippling heartbreak, angst and loss for you as well in spades in the Love strand! DaysCicadaHerselfLovers Rock and Supernova are all standouts, and it’s Francis Lee’s Ammonite – following his extraordinary God’s Own Country – starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan that will close the festival. All in all, there’s definitely enough to keep you busy over the coming weeks. So, take a break from Netflix and log in or get out to see some really great films this October. 

The BFI London Film Festival 2020 takes place from 7-18 October. bfi.org.uk/london-film-festival

Matthew Anderson | @MattAndo63