As another successful edition of the BFI London Film Festival has recently drawn to a close, numerous thoughts spring to mind about the most meaningful way to approach editorially the film festival itself and the unique cultural ecosystem it nurtures, both as a concept and curatorial practice promoting film culture in a particular time and place.

It has been a conscious decision by Frame !ndependent to cover this festival edition differently. Rather than a post-digital media conditioned, “in the moment” production of film critique and suggestions of unmissable films, we take a completely different approach and focus on the films that have triggered certain cinematic experiences that still linger in our memories, aesthetic palette, and hearts after the festival has ended.

What is a film festival if not a sum of its parts? Or better, how can a film festival be better understood beyond the sum of its parts? Answers to these questions might be somewhat obfuscated in the current post-exhibition, post- digital context. With a deluge of new films and moving image works being disseminated almost every week through ubiquitous digital platforms, notions such as “world premiere”, festival “buzz” or “festival edition”, “programme sections” are at risk of becoming obsolete. At the same time, it seems as if film festivals themselves, with the exception of Cannes, are somehow redefining these notions by incorporating elements of that post-digital condition in their programme. It is a common occurrence that many films produced and distributed via digital platforms for example are having their premiere at an A-list film festival, as big digital platforms have also become producers. Yet, there is something distinct about film festivals that remains and lingers; and that is the elusive and alluring component that makes film festivals film festivals, and films festival films.

This indiscernible element can be linked, in my opinion, to the different expressions and positions of cinema; how cinema and cinematic moments become in relation to a film, a specific and sometimes situated exhibition space, as well as the attending audience. Even though it is something palpable during the course of each festival to everyone attending, the particular expression of cinema which each festival proposes, its curatorial or programming choices can be better understood in the form of a postscript. A reflection of meaningful and notable cinematic experiences, as it were, after a particular festival edition has ended. The cinematic experiences and films that remain after the dust has settled.

Uniquely positioned as a festival drawing on other festivals, that is, by incorporating highlights from other A-list film festivals in their programme alongside inspirational films and new talent, the BFI London Film Festival encourages such an approach. It offers a snapshot of not only the curatorial choices and programming approach of a particular festival edition, but also a wider consideration of current film festival curation principles and practices and the modes in which they potentially contribute to the creation and dissemination of cinema and film culture more broadly.

The most memorable cinematic experiences created during the latest edition of the BFI London Film Festival will be presented in respective articles and film reviews over the next few days. 

 By Eirini Nikopoulou