WWI in colour, Victorian films in IMAX, and kick-ass women pulling a heist are just some of the BFI London Film Festival 2018 highlights...


London Film Festival runs 10-21 October across London.

Member priority booking opens at 10:00 on Thu 06 Sep. Public: 13 September 10am.

Printed guide are available at the BFI and online as a guide pdf (28MB).

The Opening and Closing Night Galas at Embankment Garden Cinemas are subject to ballot. Enter online before midnight on Wed 12 Sep, book online here for other tickets.

The Smoke Screen has taken the weekend to digest, or try to digest, the hefty 2018 London Film Festival programme, which dropped on Thursday 30 August. The 62nd edition of the festival is as jam-packed as can be expected; 225 features, 46 documentaries, four animations, 18 archive restorations and seven artists’ moving image features. The programme also includes 160 short films, and 77 countries are represented across short film and features. A Headline Gala will be presented every night at Cineworld Leicester Square. Films in Official Competition are this year presented at Vue Leicester Square, with Strand Galas presented at the 800-seat Embankment Garden Cinema, with the BFI Southbank venue and other satellte venues around London taking part as usual, including venues in north London. If you are committed, you'll need to be prepared to do some travelling to catch screenings that aren't sold out at quieter venues.

Alongside the Galas, Special Presentations and films in Competition, the Festival will again split own the programming into sections; Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Experimenta, Family and Create – which provide pathways for audiences to navigate the extensive programme. Whats new this year is that the winners in each competition strand- Official, First Feature, Short and Documentary- will be selected by hand-picked juries, and the winners will be revealed in front of a public audience on the evening of Saturday 20 October. Each winning film will be presented as a surprise screening in each category at Vue Leicester Square, preceded on stage by the presentation of the Festival’s official award, the bronze Star of London, in the presence of Artistic Director Tricia Tuttle, the President of the jury and the winning filmmaker. 




We couldn't leave out the opening film, could we? Not least when it conjures the aura of one of the Smoke Screen's favourite thrillers; Heat. This time, however, the women are planning the take-down. Directed and co-written by Steve McQueen and best-selling novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, Widows is a thriller about a group of women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Jacki Weaver star with Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson. 


The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show in IMAX

Truly one of the most unique-sounding items playing this year, this Archive Gala will project some of Britain's earliest films, preserved by the BFI National Archive, on the nation's biggest screen; the BFI IMAX. These are 68mm original nitrate prints (the kind of prints that can catch fire) we are are talking about here, all treated under the meticulous and painstaking supervision of the BFI’s Conservation Centre so as to be presented digitally in their fully fleshed, large format, high-definition glory for the first time in over 120 years. You can read more about the project here.


They Shall Not Grow Old: WWI in Colour 3D screenings presented by director Peter Jackson

This long-gestating projects gets its world premiere at LFF 2018 in time to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice. Commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Imperial War Museums, Peter Jackson’s First World War film, newly titled They Shall Not Grow Old, will be the Documentary Special Presentation at the BFI London Film Festival on 16 October at BFI Southbank. They Shall Not Grow Old uses the voices of the war's veterans combined with original archival footage, newly colorised and converted to 3D, to bring to life the reality of war on the front line for a whole new generation. Footage comes from the IWM, with the BBC contributing audio. The film will be simultaneously screened, in 2D and 3D to cinemas and special venues across the UK. Attended by the director Peter Jackson, the simulcast will include a special post screening Q&A with Jackson, hosted by film critic Mark Kermode.  Read more about it here.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

LFF wouldn't taste half as sweet without an entry from the Coen brothers. This time they are bringing an anthology of a half-dozen Western tales, told in their own very Coen-esque way.



Nicole Kidman has been getting seriously strong reviews for a near-unrecognisable turn as a jaded police detective haunted by her past in Karyn Kusama’s brooding thriller. Just look at the still if you are in doubt.


If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins's delicate and moving Moonlight was a star item of the 2016 London Film Festival, now the Oscar-winning filmmaker returns with an audacious, distinctive and assured adaptation of James Baldwin’s account of love, injustice and racism in America.



Years ago the Smoke Screen squeezed into a sold out IMAX screening of Alfonso Cuarón's space thriller Gravity. It remains one of the most visceral experiences I've ever had at a festival. Now  Cuaron offers a different, but hopefully equally evocative ride, with this glorious reminiscence of a momentous year in Mexico City shot in sumptuous black-and-white.


The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

He FINALLY finished it. Given this film was two decades in the making, mercurial director Terry Gilliam’s very particular Cervantes adaptation, with a killer cast featuring Adam Driver and Johnathan Pryce, should surely be a festival must-see.



Nadine Labaki has been making quite a name for herself over the last decade, emerging as a substantial Arab female voice in 2007 with her debut film Caramel. Her new drama Capernaum has been gathering accolades across the festival circuit worldwide (selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize). It tells the story of Zain, a young boy from an impoverished family, who sues his parents for having brought him into a world of such suffering and despair. Along the way, he forges an unlikely bond with a toddler, the child of an Ethiopian maid working illegally in Lebanon. Filming on location in Beirut, where people exist below the poverty line and often lack any legal recognition. 



Korean director Lee Chang-dong (Poetry) stormed this year's Cannes with this thriller about obsession, class conflict and suppressed male rage, based on a Haruki Murakami short story, about a missing girl, a mysterious cat, an arsonist and a possible murder.


The Favourite

With films like Dogtooth, The Kiling of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster in his resume, Yorgos Lanthimos remains firmly on the Smoke Screen MVP list. Now he is back with The Favourite, another offbeat drama, but this time set in an 18th century world where England is at war with the France, and duck racing is thriving at Court. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to both Sarah and the Queen, and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. Festival buzz on this has been great so far.


Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.