Leeds International Film Festival returns for 2021 – everything you need to know



As the nights darken and the weather cools, we once again welcome the return of West Yorkshire’s crown jewel of autumnal arts, the Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF)

Taking place from 3 to 18 November, the 35th edition of the internationally renowned film festival will welcome film lovers in theaters across Leeds but also online via the Leeds Film Player viewing platform.

While two of the usual festival venues will be closed for redevelopment during LIFF 2021 (Leeds Town Hall and Hyde Park Picture House), the program has been extended to Vue in The Light – in three luxury screens with new reclining seats – and returns to Everyman and Belgrave Music Hall.

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They also take LIFF 2021 to the breathtaking setting of the Howard Boardroom, the brand new cinema at Leeds School of Arts and for the first time to the National Science & Media Museum in Bradford.

What to expect

For the 2021 edition of LIFF, the film program has been divided into five categories: Official selection for new feature films; Cinema Versa for documentaries; Fanomenon for action, anime, horror, sci-fi movies and more; Leeds Short Film Award; and Rear View for Classic Movies and Archival Finds.

Often seen as a stepping stone to awards season, the festival served to showcase a number of big hits as they worked on the pre-Academy awards circuit.

Films such as the 2019 Closing Gala featuring Jojo Rabbit, took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020 after being screened at the festival, with other Oscar nominees like Marriage Story and The Irishman also starring in the race for rewards.

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Along with the expected critical darlings that may have generated some buzz earlier this year at festivals such as the Berlinale or Cannes, the festival itself also has its own list of competitions in the form of the official selection.

With entries spanning the entire globe, it offers both an eclectic and fearless array of cinematic choices, with little indie gems hidden amid more established studio efforts.

The festival also offers a superb return to form with its Rear View section, a popular retrospective that had been lightened up during the pandemic, but returns again this year in all its former glory.

The opening of the ‘Spencer’ festival traces the tumultuous climax of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles in 1991.

Films not to be missed

This year’s festival opens with a screening of the highly anticipated Spencer, a biopic of Princess Diana’s much-publicized split from Prince Charles in the winter of 1991.

Portrayed by Kristen Stewart, the long-suffering royal comes to life with surprising frankness, which many may not think possible, given her less-than-stellar turn in the Twilight franchise.

Both drama and nostalgia for some of us, this is a film that may be an acquired taste, but it certainly adds perspective and a new perspective to a now infamous piece of British history.

Another must-see movie is The Card Counter, starring Oscar Isaac from Star Wars.

Yet instead of fighting to save the galaxy, Isaac plays here William Tell, a gamer and former soldier who sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge on a common enemy from their past.

It’s a dark, gritty revenge thriller with more cinematic intensity than you can possibly get. Yet the one who never stops entertaining either.

Oscar Isaac begins in gritty revenge thriller
Oscar Isaac begins in the gritty revenge thriller “The Card Counter”.

In an iconic throwback to the golden age of anime, the festival will also feature Angel’s Egg, the 1985 cult classic hosted by Mamoru Oshii from Ghost in the Shell.

Produced as part of a collaboration with eminent artist Yoshitaka Amano, Angel’s Egg follows the life of an anonymous young girl living alone in an undefined building near an abandoned town.

She tends to a large egg which she hides under her dress, protecting it while scouring the decrepit Gothic Revival / Art Nouveau cityscape for food, water and bottles.

The artwork alone is stunning enough to deserve a watch, but the storyline itself is both captivating and moving, which helps really sell the story Oshii worked so hard to convey.

The 1985 cult classic Angel's Egg will also be featured at this year's festival.
The 1985 cult classic Angel’s Egg will also be featured at this year’s festival.

As part of a special roster focused on Japanese cinema, Seven Samurai will also be returning for screenings.

This iconic piece of early cinema traces the story of a motley assortment of masterless samurai who band together to defend a poor village from bandits.

From the unmistakable charisma of Toshiro Mifune to the constant twists and turns of a hectic and captivating plot, this movie classic is definitely one you don’t want to miss.

Akira Kurosawa’s epic “Seven Samurai” has already topped the BBC Culture poll to find the 100 greatest foreign language films of all time.

How much do the tickets cost and where can I find them?

A range of tickets are available depending on your needs, with two particular divisions in terms of online and location-based content.

Tickets for feature films in theaters cost £ 9 each or £ 7.50 at a discount.

Short film packages are: £ 7 each or £ 6 with a reduction.

Online movie rental through Leeds Film Player is £ 7 for feature films and £ 5 for short films.

A number of wholesale offers are also available, ranging from £ 30 to £ 150 each with varying degrees of access to the site and online content.

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone: 0113 376 0318, or in person, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Carriageworks Theater.

Additional tickets will also be available at each site, although advance booking is always recommended.

For more information and the full list of films on offer, see Leeds International Film Festival on the Leeds Film website.


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