Everyone's dying to see Kristen Stewart's highly anticipated take on the people's princess, a performance that reportedly went down a storm at its premiere at Venice Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. Director Pablo Larraín has chosen to centre his adaptation around an imagined Christmas visit to Sandringham in the early 1990s, at a time when both Diana and the Royal marriage were breaking down. The film is one of the festival's headline galas and will be screened at the new gala venue, a 2000 seat screen at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.
It's a reflection of the times we live in that some of this year's hottest tickets are to TV shows, and LFF's newest strand of the programme – entitled 'Series' – is a nod to the 'ever-blurring line between television and film'. Although the strand looks full of gripping new watches, surely the fastest to sell out will be the year's most anticipated return – episodes one and two of the third series of Succession. If somehow you're still waiting to watch the Shakespearian story of a media mogul family, you have time to binge series one and two before the 15 October.
Earlier this year the Economist reported that Covid-19 and streaming have contributed to a boom in the global popularity of anime. This official competition feature by Oscar-nominated anime director Mamoru Hosoda promises to be one of the festival's big hits among fans of the genre and newcomers alike. A shy student finds social success as a singer on a virtual reality app, but encounters a disruptive presence known as the ‘Dragon’ in this internet-era take on Beauty and the Beast.
First there was the podcast, now the show and soon the movie starring Dev Patel! The story of mayhem and murder among male strippers explored in Gimlet Media's true-crime podcast Welcome to Your Fantasy is revisited in this episodic documentary, the first two episodes of which are showing at LFF. Alongside the investigation angle, expect a colourful cultural history of the global phenomenon, complete with archive footage and interviews with former Chippendales.
Former actress and fashion designer Sadie Frost turns director for this documentary about the life of legendary Swinging Sixties fashion designer Mary Quant. Utilising her fashion industry contacts to bag contributors including Edward Enninful, Kate Moss, and Vivienne Westwood, Frost tells the story of Quant's impact on fashion through interviews and archive footage. Catch the world premiere at LFF.
Another career sidestep, Ewen Spencer – the British photographer famous for his documentation of club life and youth subculture – has helmed a documentary exploring the evolution of Grime music. Using access to contributors garnered during his long photography career, Spencer contextualises three-decades of the subculture with a look at its socio-political backdrop.
Coming from the director who brought us a very experimental take on a Bob Dylan documentary with I'm Not There (2007), and a deeply personal, imagined history of the glam rock era in Velvet Goldmine (1998), Todd Haynes ode to The Velvet Underground is expected to be something special. Featuring archive footage – including 16mm films by Andy Warhol – and the band's iconic music, it's definitely one to see on a big screen.
Technological immersion is a bit of a theme at this year's LFF (see Belle above). Natalia Almada’s experimental, non-linear documentary explores our ever-increasing unity with technology, imagining the futures of the youngest generation in a mesmerising visual journey.
An immersive, 180-degree film experience, Container explores the commodification of humans through the ages, finding little difference between the modern economic exploitation of today and the slavery of past centuries. A difficult but necessary watch (18+ is advised) the film can be viewed in person via booked time slots or through the festival's virtual exhibition space for free.
Every year the BFI includes some newly discovered or forgotten archive films in their line-up, and one of 2021's gems is the world premiere of Europa, an avant-garde work of art previously thought to have been destroyed by Nazis and rediscovered only in 2019. A silent film with a new composed by Lodewijk Muns, Europa is a Polish experimental piece exploring the spread of fascism in Europe in the build-up to WW2.
Explore the full programme and book tickets from Monday 20 September.