The 65th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express has announced the full 2021 programme line-up that will be presented both in cinemas and virtually.

Opening and closing films have previously been announced with Netflix’s ‘The Harder They Fall opening the festival. Directed by Londoner Jeymes Samuel, the film will receive its World Premiere at LFF gala venue the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, with Samuel expected to attend along with the key cast. The Festival closes with Joel Coen’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play, ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ from Apple Original Films and A24. The film will receive its European Premiere at the LFF, with Joel Coen expected to attend. Both films will be available at LFF partner cinemas across the UK, with ‘The Harder They Fall also going to a wider network of cinemas.

This year’s headline galas will include the dark drama ‘The Power of the Dog’ from Oscar® and Palme d’Or winning filmmaker Jane Campion starring a fantastic international cast including Oscar® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Also on the gala circuit is Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Belfast’, Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’, Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Bendetta’, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s ‘King Richard’,  Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho’, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s ‘The Lost Daughter’ and  Pablo Larraín’s ‘Spencer’.

Also in news – Lashana Lynch joins cast of ‘The Woman King’

The LFF Family Gala will be British animation’s ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ featuring a voice cast of Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms and Rob Delaney.

Following the success of the free Virtual Awards Ceremony in 2020, The BFI London Film Festival Awards will once again be presented at an Online Award Ceremony on 17 October.


The Best Film Award in Official Competition recognises inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, and includes the following shortlisted titles:

  • BELLE – a captivating animation from Oscar®-winning anime director Mamoru Hosoda
  • IL BUCO – a meticulous and engrossing true story of cave mapping from Michelangelo Frammartino, made for the big screen
  • THE HAND OF GOD – a bitingly funny, semi-autobiographical tale about a tight-knit Neapolitan family’s supposedly settled lives, from acclaimed filmmaker, Paolo Sorrentino
  • NITRAM – the disturbing true story of a Tasmanian serial killer who went on a killing spree in 1996, starring Caleb Landry Jones in the title role, from bold Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel
  • HIT THE ROAD – a tender, quirky and laugh-out-loud funny road movie from debut Iranian film director Panah Panahi
  • SUNDOWN – from one of contemporary cinema’s most original filmmakers, Michel Franco, comes a complex, searing study of what it means to try and be someone else, starring Tim Roth as a man in crisis with Charlotte Gainsbourg starring alongside him as his sister
  • LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS – acclaimed African filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun follows the international success of A Screaming ManDaratt and Abouna with a profoundly humane and visually ravishing drama about a woman caught between her faith and her love for her daughter 
  • TRUE THINGS – UK filmmaker Harry Wootliff unites Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke in a fascinating psychological drama which explores the darker side of relationships and the fine line between infatuation and obsession


Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

  • THE ALLEYS – Bassel Ghandour’s gripping debut is as tightly woven as the interlocking alleys it depicts – a neighbourhood where gossip circles mercilessly and reputation is everything
  • AZOR – this compelling conspiracy thriller directed by Andreas Fontana sees Yvan, a Swiss banker, navigating his way around an Argentinian dictatorship where disappearances have becoming a worrying fact of life.
  • COSTA BRAVA LEBANON – in a Lebanon of the near future where the refuse crisis has made Beirut uninhabitable, the simmering tension of unresolved disputes contrasts with the electricity of first love in Mounia Akl’s dazzling debut
  • PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN – Tatiana Huezo’s incisive feature debut places a coming-of-age story at the centre of a rural community in Mexico blighted by drug cartels
  • THE FEAST – you are cordially invited to the dinner party from hell, courtesy of Lee Haven Jones’ Welsh-language horror opus which is a masterclass in insidious discomfort and escalating tension
  • SMALL BODY – this strikingly original and enthralling feature debut from Laura Samani details the odyssey of a young mother as she tries to save her baby’s soul
  • PLAYGROUND – the harsh world of playground politics is seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old girl in a gripping debut from Belgian writer-director Laura Wandel
  • WHITE BUILDING – remarkably nuanced and emotionally engaging, Kavich Neang’s film delves into the impact of gentrification in Phnom Penh and pays homage to the enduring memory of the iconic White Building


The Grierson Award recognises feature-length documentaries with integrity, originality and social or cultural significance.

  • ALL ABOUT MY SISTERS – Wang Qiong ‘s impressive debut takes us to the heart of her unresolved family trauma and asks critical questions about privacy and permission in documentary practice
  • BABI YAR. CONTEXT – Sergei Loznitsa’s film reconstructs the events that led to the 1941 massacre of the Jewish population of Kiev in the nearby ravine of Babi Yar.
  • BECOMING COUSTEAU – this riveting doc from Oscar®-nominated director Liz Garbus brings a fresh take on the life of the inspiring inventor, explorer, environmentalist and filmmaker Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau
  • THE DANCE – documenting the seemingly haphazard creation – from nothing initially decided on – of a new dance suite, acclaimed Irish filmmaker Pat Collins reveals how experimentation becomes art
  • A COP MOVIE – be prepared to be surprised by this wildly inventive, hybrid documentary drama by Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios, following two Mexico City police officers on the beat
  • FAYA DAYI – Jessica Beshir’s bewitching film is a fascinating portrait of the city of Harar and the intimate rituals of Ethiopia’s most lucrative produce, khat
  • COW – Andrea Arnold takes you on a seemingly simple, yet ultimately radical journey, offering an insight into the life of a dairy cow. The aim of Arnold’s mesmerising documentary is to get down and dirty with Luma, a cow on a working dairy farm, staying as close to her as possible
  • NASCONDINO (HIDE AND SEEK) – Victoria Fiore’s astonishing feature documentary debut is a surreal journey of a young boy’s final days of freedom before he is taken away from his family

Over twelve days from 6 – 17 October, flagship venue BFI Southbank and the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, the LFF Gala venue for 2021, will make London’s South Bank one of two London hub’s at the heart of the film festival experience.

Films will also screen in a number of cinemas in London’s West End, with a selection of films at 10 venues in cities and towns across the UK.

The Festival will also be accessible online to audiences across the whole of the UK with a specially selected programme of feature and short films available on BFI Player, with online short films and online events free to access.

The LFF Expanded programme of Immersive Art and XR will have a large physical exhibition at 26 Leake Street and the National Theatre and also be available UK-wide and internationally via our bespoke virtual exhibition space, The Expanse.

For the full programme from the festival, head here