BFI London Film Festival 2023 Highlights

19 Oct 2023 in Film Features

7 mins

Every year the BFI London Film Festival offers a plethora of rousing and awe-inspiring films from around the world. The 67th edition, which came to a close last week, featured a rich programme of highly anticipated upcoming British cinema releases as well as some fantastic international gems that delve into fresh and captivating stories through ever more surprising storytelling techniques, truly showcasing the power of film to open our minds.

Our Curation Team scoured the programme for the most relevant titles for young audiences and have selected their top picks from this year's festival. From a dazzling children's book adaptation with a powerful message about conservation to a charming documentary celebrating neurodiversity, here are some of the inspiring and educational films that teachers and young people can look out for in cinemas across the UK in the next 12 months.

Michael - Curation Lead

Copa 71 (11+)

This entertaining and engaging documentary explores a forgotten, or perhaps buried, part of football history. It tells the previously untold tale of the 1971 Women's World Cup a tournament still not officially recognised by FIFA and the six teams from across the globe who took part: England, Argentina, Denmark, France, Italy, and hosts Mexico. Featuring vibrant archive footage of the competitive games and energetic crowds, as well as contemporary interviews with those at the heart of the event, this is an inspiring story more than five decades in the making.

If you like the sound of this... you may also like Next Goal Wins on Into Film+. This documentary follows the misfortunes of American Samoa, dubbed the worst football team in international football after losing 31-0 to Australia, as they attempt to turn their form around with the help of a new coach.

Bonus Track (14+)

Socially awkward high-schooler George isn't exactly excelling in many of his subjects. Even in music, his one true passion, he fails to impress either his teacher or his classmates. But when a new boy joins the school - the son of celebrity musicians, no less - George finds some much-needed inspiration by having someone who believes in him. As the two spend more time together in anticipation of the upcoming school leavers' talent show, a different kind of chemistry appears to develop. Co-written by Josh O'Connor and with an original song by Olly Alexander, this is a sweet coming-of-age comedy.

If you like the sound of this... you may also like Turn It Around on Into Film+. This Dutch short film revolves around a meet-cute between two teenage boys at a party and a fateful game of Spin the Bottle.

Steven - Curation Officer

The Boy and The Heron (11+)

One of the great filmmakers of his generation, Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited AwayMy Neighbour TotoroPonyo) returns with this otherworldly tale of coping with loss at a young age. Following a young boy named Mahito, who moves to the countryside in the mid-twentieth century after the death of his mother, the film sweeps between colourful and surreal dimensions filled with giant parakeets and majestic warriors, building to a beautifully cosmic conclusion. A fantastic addition to the Studio Ghibli canon fit for audiences both young and old.

If you like the sound of this... you may also like Tokyo Godfathers on Into Film+. This film, set at Christmas in the Japanese metropolis of Tokyo, tells the story of a trio of homeless people who discover and abandoned baby and decide to return it to its mother - but find this task a lot more difficult than they anticipated.

This Is Going to Be Big (11+)

The annual school musical is a setting ripe for drama but, at this particular school in Bullengarook, Australia, the students have a very unique outlook on life. This documentary follows a group of enthusiastic, neurodiverse youngsters who are beyond excited to perform in a musical about the legendary Australian singer John Farnham, titled "The Time-Travelling Trio". Charming and funny in equal measure, the time we spend with Chelsea, Elyse, Halle and Josh, along with insights into their families and support systems, culminate in an incredibly moving finale that must be seen to be believed.

If you like the sound of this... you may also like The Peanut Butter Falcon on Into Film+ Premium. This film follows Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome who dreams of becoming a professional wrestler despite all the hurdles put in front of him. When he meets with a grieving fisherman, they set off on a journey to fulfil Zak's destiny.

Charlotte - Curation Officer

Kensuke's Kingdom (7+)

This immersive and beautifully drawn animation is adapted from British author Michael Morpurgo's children's novel by the same name. It features a wonderous adventure experienced from the perspective of a young boy, who, while sailing around the world with his family, is swept overboard along with his dog. They wake up on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, where they meet a Japanese man who has lived there by himself for many years. This sweet tale promotes respect for nature and wildlife and celebrates the beauty of human connections that transcends language barriers. 

If you like the sound of this... you may also like The Red Turtle on Into Film+ Premium. This non-dialogue animation also begins with a shipwreck on a deserted island. Through gorgeous visuals and simple storytelling, the film explores topics including our aquatic life, family, and magic. 

If Only I Could Hibernate (14+)

Resonating with humour, relatability, and compassion, this highly accessible story centres around Ulzii, a very bright Mongolian teenager with a knack for Physics. His struggling mum moves back to the countryside to find work, leaving him to look after his younger siblings in the city amidst the harsh winter. A new teacher at school encourages Ulzii to enter a competition that could win him a scholarship, but his chance to pursue a way out of poverty is jeopardized by his immediate circumstances growing increasingly desperate. An eye-opening film that will generate discussions on access to education and the impact of urbanisation.

If you like the sound of this... you may also like Kes on Into Film+. This 1970 British film tells the story of a young Northern boy, whose interest in falconry offers hope in his otherwise difficult day-to-day life. The film's touching yet sharp social commentary still feels very relevant today. 

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