Simian Substitute Site for October 2021: Hit-Monkey
Spank's LFF Diary, Wednesday 06/10/2021

London Film Festival 2021

Dressing up for the festival (his and hers)Did I mention that we both caught Covid towards the end of August?

No, of course I didn't mention it. It's exactly the sort of detail I'd deliberately hold back to use as a dramatic opening to a twelve-day liveblog, or perhaps to kick off the second chapter of Spank's LFF Diaries Volume Six: 2020-2024 (to be published by in summer 2025). Anyway, you've probably got questions at this point, so to answer the two most important ones:

a) We're fine, thanks. It was a pretty mild case of the 'rona for both myself and The Belated Birthday Girl, and apart from slight congestion and a bit of weirdness in the taste/smell department, we both came through our ten days of self-isolation unscathed. Get vaccinated, people, and continue to behave with caution in small crowded spaces.

b) Yeah, about that. I'd imagine you're already poring over our 2021 Edinburgh Diary to see if you can work out exactly where it was we caught it. The BBG says I'm obliged to point out that really, there's no way we can be sure. Which is true, but I'd like to suggest that when that woman on the LNER advert tells you all the things you can do on their trains, she's missed one out.

So what with Edinburgh and Manchester before it, that makes it two festivals we've been to so far this year that have resulted in some sort of Covid panic for us both. Shall we try and make it three?

It goes without saying - though obviously I'm about to say it anyway - that the 2020 London Film Festival was a bit odd. Half a year into the pandemic, most other film festivals had gone for a wholly online approach, but the LFF decided it was time to push the envelope a bit. They went hybrid: most of the programme was streamed over their internet player, but a dozen or so of the films were also playing in cinemas, albeit ones with social distancing enforced in the seating. The BBG and I embraced the hybridity completely, and ended up seeing 26 films online, and 8 in the real world.

One year on, and the 2021 festival is still hybrid, but the ratio has been pretty much reversed. The bulk of this year's screenings are taking place in cinemas, without the same level of social distancing, but keeping a couple of the other innovations from last year (notably having satellite screenings of the biggest films in cinemas across the country). At the same time, acknowledging that not everyone feels comfortable yet going back into public spaces, several of the films - though not the biggest ones - are simultaneously being streamed on the BFI Player, with some items (notably the shorts) being available for free.

In the meantime, the scope of the festival is continuing to expand. Last year, there was an increased focus on TV, and a new strand dedicated to VR and related technologies: that's continuing this year. But there are also several events that push the boundaries of what a moving image festival should be doing, from a walking tour of Charlie Chaplin's old haunts to a playback of the Velvet Underground's first album in a darkened room. (Both of those tie in with actual films that'll be screened here, so they're justified, honestly.)

Considering we're still in the middle of a global pandemic, there's a hell of a lot going on. And for the (counts on all available appendages) 24th year in a row, I'll be reporting back here on a daily basis to let you know how much of it I've seen and what I thought about it. How far into the fest can we get before yet another health scare? Watch this space.



Gulp - That is a bit of a sober wake up call that you guys caught Covid. Especially as little by little one does try to push the envelope in what we can actually do now. We did do the theatre thing once about a month or so back (whilst it was still socially distanced), and for my part I have a warped cavalier attitude when it comes to football. However we can't face the cinema or public transport yet.

Anyway glad you guys are okay and hope they don't cram everyone in at the LFF.

Old Lag

Have a great festival. Really good that you survived covid.

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