One of the reasons why studying abroad, especially in London, is so great, is because it gives you so many awesome opportunities you would never have had access to at home. For instance, take Lauren Buangan, a UCLA student studying at Queen Mary for the fall term. Lauren attended the BFI Film Festival, held throughout October, and had quite a memorable and unique experience! According to Lauren, here’s how it all went down…
London is one of those international cities that comes with some great perks,especially in regards to entertainment and culture. But while I was distracted by theatre, performance art, and museums, one category I had yet to consider was film. Enter the 2016 BFI London Film Festival.
I had seen advertisements for the film festival late in September but it really didn’t come to the forefront of my thoughts until I saw the pop-up theater BFI had built specifically for the festival by Embankment station one day. I thought to myself, “That looks really neat. Why not attend a screening or two?” Before I knew it, I had booked myself six tickets for screenings that took place over the course of the festival’s two weeks, from October 5-16. One thing I didn’t realize was that I had booked tickets to screenings that were also technically European or UK premieres.
I attending screenings of Love In A Void (collection of six short films), Manchester By The Sea, Bleed For This, Brimstone, Before The Flood, and Free Fire. Four of the six were official European premieres. They were all presented between three theaters across town: the BFI Southwark (which is worth a visit all on it’s own for £3 film tickets for under 25 year olds, a library, and a ‘Mediatheque’ where you can watch archived films), Embankment Garden Cinema, and Odeon Leicester Square. Besides being premieres, another extra cool feature of film festivals is that the creative minds and stars behind the films sometimes come to the screenings, give intros, and possibly participate in a Q&A session.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from being surprised when actor/director Danny DeVito showed up to the screening of Love In A Void. But that was just the beginning.
In the case of Manchester By The Sea, I was completely unaware that the screening was a premiere until I arrived that evening. I thought I had gone to the wrong theater. When I walked up to the Odeon in Leicester Square there was a ton of security, a red carpet, and about two hundred tourists hanging about to see what was going on and I thought, ‘Surely this can’t be the right place.’ But I showed security my ticket and, sure enough, I was let onto the red carpet and walked into the theater feeling like a real VIP. Prior to the movie, stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams introduced the film.
I had done my research beforehand and found out that my ticket for Bleed For This was also a European premiere. So I was more prepared for it this time. What I wasn’t prepared for was practically bumping shoulders with actor Miles Teller, and the rush of people that came after that. This screening was at the Embankment Garden Cinema which was the pop-up theater made specifically for the festival. Besides Miles Teller, fellow actors Aaron Eckhart and Ciaran Hinds and director Ben Younger were all in attendance, all of whom stuck behind after the film for some questions from the audience.
But probably the biggest headliner from the 2016 BFI London Film Festival was Leonardo DiCaprio. It pays to check your promotional emails. No, seriously, check your promotional emails. On the afternoon of October 14th the BFI announced that Leonardo DiCaprio would be attending the October 15th screening of his new documentary, Before The Flood. Naturally, the remaining tickets were going very fast but I was able to snag some before they sold out a minute later. We arrived early to try and see Leo on the red carpet, but turns out he arrived through a secret back entrance and they were just trying to keep crowds down by saying he wouldn’t be there. But he was definitely there and it was definitely awesome. Before the screening, he and director Fisher Stevens answered a few questions about the process of making the film.
I ended my experience with the official last screening of the 2016 BFI London Film Festival, the shoot ‘em up comedy Free Fire, introduced by Director Ben Wheatley and actor Sharlto Copley. I was the lucky girl who bought the very last ticket.
Everyone is a movie goer. The BFI London Film Festival really allows audiences to explore upcoming blockbusters, little known independent films, and international cinema in a really incredible environment. As for the films I had the privilege of viewing, some of them were really spectacular. Some of them: not my gig. But that’s part of the fun of film festivals. The movies are so new that some don’t even have reviews and it’s a bit of a mystery draw. But sometimes the film you were least hyped to see ends up being your favorite. And maybe, if you’ve played your cards right, you can spend your London evening with a few stars.