I reckon Sandra Hebron spoiled us, really. She was the boss of the London Film Festival for a whole decade (2002-2011), and we all assumed that this would be the standard lifespan of a festival director. Which is ludicrous, because her predecessor Adrian Wootton was only there for five years (1997-2001). And her successor Clare Stewart wasn't there for much longer than that (2012-2017).
So we shouldn't have been so surprised at the announcement this week that Tricia Tuttle is standing down from her role as festival director after this one, following five years in the job. Which makes this a little bit premature as a post-match analysis of what she's achieved, but it seems like as good a way of getting into our LFF 2022 coverage as any.
On the surface, you could argue that there wasn't much change to the programme structure during Tuttle's reign: the infamous Clare Stewart Classification System, stranding the films into categories like Love, Laugh, Chunder and so on, was kept firmly in place. (My suggestion of an alternative - the Tricia Tuttle Taxonomy Table - was ignored outright.) Some of the issues that came in during the Stewart period - the diminishing of the Archive section, and the loss of a programme of animated shorts not aimed at children - stayed as issues. And the BFI still don't seem to be capable of maintaining a booking system that doesn't crash within the first ten minutes of tickets going on sale.
But there are a few major achievements that Tricia was responsible for that we can't ignore. The first is a definite push for diversity in the programme. Tuttle made it her aim to get equality of representation in the films shown, and made a point of gathering the data and making it public so we all knew just how that was going. Seeing works by women at the festival sometimes felt like the exception, and while it's not exactly the norm as yet, there's been definite progress. She's also taken the festival programming into some unusual areas tangentially related to its filmic brief - a bit more TV, a bit more performance, a lot more virtual reality. (Maybe the latter will work properly this year, you never know.)
And the other thing we need to acknowledge is that she ran both of the main BFI festivals - LFF and Flare - at a time when a global pandemic looked like it was going to kill off the whole idea of going out to the movies. Her achievement with the 2020 Flare festival, which took place precisely when the shit hit the fan in March, was astonishing: her team pivoted from an in-person event to a wholly online one, in virtually no time at all. The three London Film Festivals we've had since then have reacted to the world situation as it happens and restructured accordingly. 2020 was largely online with a dozen or so special theatrical screenings for people who felt up to it: 2021 was largely back in cinemas again, but with many of the films getting simultaneous premieres on the BFI Player.
As for 2022, we're approaching something like the pre-pandemic programme structure, but keeping some of the advantages of the online approach. For one thing, the press launch of the festival became something everyone could watch on YouTube, an hour-long programme containing clips of virtually everything being screened this year. (The BFI's YouTube channel is also currently home to over 100 clips and trailers.) The online screenings are now a mini-festival in their own right, scheduled to take place later in the month: features are available to rent between October 14th and 23rd, while you can watch shorts for free from October 5th to 23rd. So even if you're not in London, you can still enjoy a fair chunk of this. (If you're outside the UK, though, it may require a little more technical jiggery-pokery.)
Wait a minute. October 5th? That's today! Yes, the London Film Festival 2022 is just about to kick off as I write this. And for the - wait for it - 25th year in a row, once again I'll be spending the day and evening watching a financially crippling number of movies, and then writing about them the following morning for your pleasure. (Or whatever it is you're getting from reading this.) Can Tricia Tuttle build on her already impressive list of accomplishments and go out on a high? Watch this space.
- Wednesday October 5th - Chee$e
- Thursday October 6th - Hidden Letters, LFF Expanded
- Friday October 7th - Nayola, The Woman In The White Car, The Worst Ones
- Saturday October 8th - Boy From Heaven, Fragments Of Paradise, God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines, Into The Ice
- Sunday October 9th - Bobi Wine: Ghetto President, EO, Foolish Wives, Love Life
- Monday October 10th - Bardo: False Chronicle Of A Handful Of Truths, Godland
- Tuesday October 11th - Emily The Criminal, Living
- Wednesday October 12th - Crows Are White, Enys Men, The Origin, The Whale
- Thursday October 13th - The Cloud Messenger, Getting It Back: The Story Of Cymande, The Menu, Short Film Competition part 1
- Friday October 14th - Blue Island, Fast & Feel Love, Short Film Competition part 2, Unicorn Wars
- Saturday October 15th - The Blue Rose of Forgetfulness, Pitchblack Playback: Cymande, Super Eagles ’96
- Sunday October 16th - All That Money Can Buy, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, New Normal
- The Wrap Party - sorting through the highlights and lowlights with special guest star The BBG