The BFI have announced BFI Film on Film Festival, a brand new film festival to take place at BFI Southbank, 8-11 June 2023 and the first film festival in the UK wholly dedicated to screen works solely on film, spanning film formats including 16mm, 35mm and 70mm as well as rare nitrate.
Whilst the majority of films are now shown digitally in cinemas, the experience of film projection from film is a very different one. For contemporary filmmakers like Christopher Nolan (Tenet), Mark Jenkin (Enys Men) or Greta Gerwig (Little Women), the decision to shoot on film is primarily an artistic one on how their film will look to the viewer when projected. BFI Film on Film Festival celebrates this materiality of film, recognising the uniqueness of film as a physical medium. BFI Film on Film Festival will comprise screenings of new and vintage film prints, programmed by the BFI National Archive’s curators from the national collection, giving audiences access to work held in the BFI National Archive which can only be seen on film and which would otherwise never been seen. The full festival programme will be announced in 2023.
Like the experience of listening to a great album on vinyl rather than a digital platform, part of the pleasure and meaning of watching a film on a film print comes from the different look and emotional impact when projected. A whole generation of young filmgoers have grown up not seeing film projected on film, the BFI Film on Film Festival is designed to deliver a unique, cinema-based experience enabling audiences to enjoy the physical materiality of film in all its glory, exploring its aesthetics and challenges – and celebrating the skills required to work with it, with expert voices from the BFI’s world-leading conservation and projection teams.
In a recent filmed interview on AlterCine Christopher Nolan said: “For me film will always have this wonderful richness, the analogue colour and superior resolution. When film is projected, the way it was originally intended to be seen, the way you shot the film, it’s a very unique experience for the audience that they can’t get in their living room….I think there is a very real danger that with watering down the theatrical experience, it waters down the experience of what a film is, that organic larger-than-life quality a film print has.”
Robin Baker, BFI Film on Film Festival programme director and head curator, BFI National Archive said: “There’s a huge appetite from audiences to experience film prints projected, especially from younger audiences whose film-going started after the arrival of digital projection. Watching film projected on film is not necessarily better or worse than screening on digital, but it is different and gets people closer to the experience audiences had in cinemas for over 100 years. And we should celebrate film’s unique qualities. Film digitisation is hugely expensive which means that only a fraction of the world’s film heritage has been digitised to date. Far too many great films are locked away and impossible to see – unless you watch them projected on film. This festival will offer real discoveries and surprises for audiences. Prepare to be wowed by the extraordinary collection of the BFI National Archive – and get the dates in your diary now!”
BFI believes that society needs stories. Film, television and the moving image bring them to life, helping us to connect and understand each other better. We help people get more out of the moving image, placing it at the heart of our cultural lives for all to discover and delight in, and using it to teach us about the past, present, and future. Harnessing world-leading technical skills and expertise in film preservation and conservation, curation and exhibition with the riches of the BFI National Archive’s national collection and an unrivalled passion and enthusiasm for the medium, BFI Film on Film Festival reinforces our commitment to showing film on film and will spark a wider discussion, reframing how audiences think about and access film, both in the UK and internationally.
BFI Film on Film Festival is made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery and the additional support of donors to the Keep Film on Film campaign.