The BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, today announced the complete lineup for LFF Expanded, the Festival’s immersive art and XR strand, which will run from 6-17 October 2021. Presented in partnership with the National Theatre, this year’s hybrid programme features works from creators bringing stories and experiences to life through bleeding-edge, immersive technologies, including interactive VR, 360 films, augmented reality, mixed reality and live immersive performance. The programme will be presented across multiple venues in-person at LFF Expanded @ 26 Leake Street, the award-winning venue in the historic Leake Street graffiti tunnels, which will serve as LFF Expanded’s primary exhibition space and feature 15 projects from the programme, BFI Southbank, Ballet Rambert, and LFF Expanded at the National Theatre. A selection of works will be available online to audiences in the UK and internationally via the virtual exhibition space, The Expanse.
The Expanse will feature seven 360-videos and immersive works, plus a virtual theatre, and will be accessible worldwide and free of charge both via VR headsets and as a standalone desktop app. LFF Expanded is programmed by Ulrich Schrauth, the LFF Immersive Art and XR Curator, who also worked closely with INVR.Space on the design of the virtual gallery.
Ulrich Schrauth, BFI London Film Festival XR Programmer, said, “We are excited to present to our audiences this wide range of creators, artists and filmmakers from all over the world and share their incredible projects in specialized exhibitions and settings. With our LFF Expanded artists coming from very different backgrounds and artistic genres, the programme is an exciting array of various art forms and showcases at the forefront of how artists experiment with emerging technologies. This new strand is not about technology, it’s about the stories these creators want to share with us. Stories of cultural, social and political urgency, giving visitors the possibility to get completely immersed in a work of art and challenge their own perspectives on these important matters of our current times.”
The LFF Expanded programme, as announced in 2020, is presented in partnership with the National Theatre and its Immersive Storytelling Studio, which works with artists and emerging technologies to develop new forms of storytelling and audience experience. This year the theatre presents Museum of Austerity, a co-production between English Touring Theatre, the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio and Trial & Error. Combining verbal testimony, original music and ground-breaking volumetric capture, this exhibition invites audiences to contemplate close-up and for free the human impact of austerity. This powerful installation combines the skills of theatre/XR director Sacha Wares with the in-depth knowledge of John Pring, editor of Disability News Service.
Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at the National Theatre, said, “It’s fantastic to be launching this incredible programme of immersive work for audiences to enjoy both across the South Bank and around the world. We’re honoured to be partnering with the BFI again this year on LFF Expanded and to showcase the great array of international talent in the XR field. This year, we’re proud to have been part of a powerful and moving installation that I see is a true development of the form. Museum of Austerity marks many years of work from John Pring and Sacha Wares to present the true stories of those who were critically in need of support in our society over the last decade in a truly moving and immersive experience.”
LFF Expanded will feature 18 projects (eight of which have lead artists that identify as women and six as ethnically diverse) working in immersive media and representing 13 countries (UK, USA, France, South Africa, Taiwan, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Israel, Nigeria, Canada, Denmark and Luxembourg). The programme features nine works from the UK and a total of six world premieres, including Asif Kapadia’s striking VR animation Laika, which Kapadia will be in attendance to present. Eulogy, a captivating and challenging performance that unfolds in complete darkness by cutting-edge production company Darkfield, and Future Rites, a work-in-progress version of an interactive VR dance performance from the Alexander Whitley Dance Company.
The BFI London Film Festival co-commissioned three of the presented projects in line with the wider ambitions of the British Film Institute to engage with new forms of immersive storytelling. These three projects vary greatly in form and use of technology: while Laika by acclaimed filmmaker Asif Kapadia is an animated VR project produced by esteemed studio Passion Pictures, Museum of Austerity by Sacha Wares and John Ping uses cutting-edge augmented reality technology to showcase an immersive, free-roaming installation whereas Future Rites by choreographer Alexander Whitley presents an in-person interactive VR dance performance.
A Life in Pieces: The Diary and Letters of Stanley Hayami
United States
Lead Artists: Nonny de la Peña, Sharon Yamato
This cutting-edge media project brings to life the wartime diary of Stanley Hayami, a Japanese-American
teenager who, during the Second World War, was forced into captivity with his family and many other American citizens of Japanese descent at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Viewers enter the rugged living conditions where the Hayami family lived as Stanley describes with poignant optimism the difficult reality he faces being imprisoned behind barbed wire. Through virtual reality technology, the teenager’s writings and drawings come to life through live-action characters, 3D animation and photogrammetry of actual surroundings.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 18 minutes
Notes: Interactive VR, International Premiere
Adult Children
United Kingdom
Lead Artists: Ella Hickson, Sacha Wares, Key Collaborator: ScanLAB Projects
Set during lockdown and staged in a scanned replica of the Donmar Warehouse auditorium, this poignant short 360 film invites us to explore the ways in which our actions are connected even when we are apart. Adult Children is a unique collaboration between leading theatre artists and groundbreaking XR creatives—Playwright Ella Hickson, XR/theatre director Sacha Wares and digital innovators ScanLAB Projects—based on their jointly-created new form of 360 theatre that explores the psychogeography of solitude, probes the nuances of social responsibility and evokes the feelings of loss that characterise the Covid era for us all.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 16 minutes
Notes: World Premiere
Atomic / Ghost in the Atom
Finland, Latvia
Lead Artists: Felicia Honkasalo, Akuliina Niemi, Masi Tiitta
This astonishing immersive installation by Finnish Artists’ collective Honkasalo/Niemi/Tiitta comprises three different artworks, each contemplating the history and legacy of nuclear waste. It’s an allegory of the absurdity of humanity’s engagement with nuclear power, comprising of a 360-degree film, 2D video installation and a physical sculpture. In this piece, we are presented with footage of radioactive waste being deposited in labyrinthine tunnels deep underground. The film shows how the post-WWII US government employed effective propaganda to downplay the devastating power of the toxic material while also demonstrating how the thermal warmth of nuclear power plants is utilised in the production of grapes for winemaking. Original film footage of the nuclear waste repository in Onkalo, Finland is used by the artists to celebrate what they describe as ‘the worlds’ longest funeral’. This triptych has been newly edited for an exclusive world premiere at LFF Expanded.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 12 minutes
Notes: World Premiere
Lead Artist: Hanna Haaslahti
In this participatory experience, your virtual likeness is digitally recreated by means of a volumetric photo of your face and unclasped into an unsettling march by a virtual crowd. Your avatar will take on different roles in an AI-generated virtual simulation where individual freedom is taken over by collective instincts, leaving you with zero agency to control your own actions. Which role will you take on? The bully, the target or the bystander? And what does it say about your primal instincts in watching aggressive social behaviour?
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street
Duration: ongoing
Notes: International Premiere
South Africa
Lead Artists: Meghna Singh, Simon Wood
Container, a 180-degree film from South Africa, makes us aware of the lives of the invisible millions that continue to be enslaved through modern-day feudalism. How would you define slavery? A lack of freedom, unbearable working conditions, social inequality and moral injustice? This film takes us on a journey through the myriad forms of economic slavery, via the spread of capitalism around the world, which has increased the hunger for cheap goods and led to mega cities filled with ‘invisible’ workers forced into economic and domestic servitude.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 16 minutes
Notes: UK Premiere
Eternal Return
United Kingdom, Sweden
Key Collaborators: The Memor, ScanLAB Projects, and Lundahl & Seitl
Eternal Return is a choreographed mixed reality exhibition exploring the future of memory. The immersive performance unfolds within a visually striking exhibition space conceived by ScanLAB Projects and artists Christer Lundahl and Martina Seitl. Designed to appeal to visitors with or without headsets, the staging gives a fragmented impression of the hidden virtual space. On entering the experience, you will be guided by a performer to explore a memory archive containing moments from Earth’s deep past and its post-Anthropocene future. This visual and audio experience is complemented by the performer’s physical and digital interaction within the work. In its entirety, this work explores the collective memory and experiences we pass on through generations: what to fear, what to value, how to live, how to care for the world of tomorrow.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, live performance
Duration: 20 minutes
Notes: UK Premiere
United Kingdom
Lead Artists: Darkfield
What if you could only listen, feel and touch? Your sensual perception would rapidly become more intense, your inner vision would take control of your imagination, and a new reality would form, defined by the images you conjure up. Acclaimed UK-based company Darkfield has mastered this sensual experience like no other, most recently with Eulogy, which unfolds in and around a labyrinthine, dreamlike hotel imagined by its audience as they’re enveloped in complete darkness. Be sure not to miss this outstanding piece of visionary storytelling during its exclusive run in London.
Presentation Location: Theatre Square / Southbank
Duration; 35 minutes
Notes: World Premiere, separately ticketed
Lead Artists: Adrien M, Claire B x Brest Brest Brest
Fauna is a series of ten large-format posters with a custom-built augmented reality application that can be discovered via your smartphone. Go on a treasure hunt around town and explore the imaginative worlds that hide behind the graphic prints. Fantastic animals roaming in beautiful landscapes come to life using the latest Augmented Reality technology, while subtle soundscapes reveal imaginary wildlife hiding behind city walls. The public art installation offers an opportunity to interact with urban surroundings in a unique and exciting way.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street
Duration: 15-30 minutes
Notes: UK Premiere, free entrance
Future Rites
United Kingdom
Lead Artists: Alexander Whitley Dance Company
Ever dreamed of actively participating alongside professional dancers in a choreographed performance? Now is your chance. Acclaimed choreographer Alexander Whitley, director Sandra Rodriguez and Canada’s Normal Studio have collaborated on this VR dance performance, which is based on Igor Stravinsky’s ground-breaking ballet The Rite of Spring. It employs live motion-capture and real-time animation to create a collective experience in which dancers and members of the audience interact with each other. As part of our free LFF Expanded programme, we are showcasing a work-in-progress version of this exciting performance during the last weekend of the Festival. Be sure to sign up early to secure a space for this outstanding new take on one of the most controversial works of the 20 th century.
Presentation Location: Rambert Studio, 13-14 October
Duration: 11 minutes
Notes: Co-Commissioned by BFI London Film Festival – LFF Expanded, World Premiere of work in progress, Free entrance/LFF Free, Registration required
United Kingdom
Lead Artists: Zoe Diakaki, Marina Eleni Mersiadou
Inspired by A. B. Casares’ novel The Invention of Morel, Inhibition is an immersive multi-user experience at the intersections of performance, architecture and 3D-design. Find yourself challenged to rethink your subjective reality as you and two other audience members embark on a quest around an imaginary island. This performative experience unfolds in three scenes, following the journey of the novel’s main protagonist, exploring how scenic installation and spatial performance can challenge the perception of audiences and performers by the user. LFF Expanded showcases this participatory live experience as an exclusive world premiere.
Presentation location: 26 Leake Street
Duration: 10 minutes
Notes: interactive VR, World Premiere
Lead Artists: Asif Kapadia, Nick Abadzis
Overnight, an unwanted and unloved stray from the streets of Moscow, Laika, became the first living creature sent by humans into space and the most famous dog in the world. Adapted from Nick Abadzis’ eponymous 2007 graphic novel, Laika is a tragic tale of love, deep humanity and a mission that heralded a new age of information, technology and the race for military supremacy. This animated VR film by Academy Award, BAFTA and Grammy-winning director Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna, The Warrior) takes you on Laika’s heart-breaking journey while exposing the dog’s pivotal role in late 20 th-century world history.
Presentation location: BFI Southbank, 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 15 mins.
Notes: World Premiere, Presented by BFI London Film Festival and StoryFutures Academy
Liminal Lands
France, U.S.
Lead Artist: Jakob Kudsk Steensen
The extraordinary landscape of the Camargue, in the South of France, provides the backdrop to the imaginative journey taken in Liminal Lands commissioned by Luma Foundation, a new museum in Arles, and conceived by Steensen during an extensive residency. Steensen re-envisions complex shapes and forms as a transitional zone where fundamental energies of sun, wind, water and bacteria determine the delicate balance of life in one of the most archaic landscapes in Western Europe. Every sound, form and texture in these virtual environments has been digitized with 3D-scanners and audio recordings, then crafted into the artist’s distinctive visual style. As both sound and vision respond to audience members’ motion, technology becomes a sensory tool for a ritualistic environmental experience.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street
Duration: 18 minutes
Notes: Interactive VR, UK Premiere
Missing Pictures Episode 2: Tsai Ming-liang
Lead Artists: Clement Deneux, Kuan-Yuan LAI
Missing Pictures is a VR documentary series that gives some of the greatest directors in the world a chance to tell the story they were never able to bring to the screen. Following on from Abel Ferrara’s entry at last year’s LFF Expanded – the unforgettable Missing Pictures: Birds of Prey – this year we welcome Taiwanese visionary Tsai Ming-Liang, whose wide-ranging body of work includes The River, The Wayward Cloud, Journey to the West and Days (LFF 2020). His untold story draws upon memories of his childhood. Hand-drawn 3D visuals become the backdrop for the filmmakers’ very personal narrative, a story about love, loss and the power of imagination.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 10 minutes
Notes: Interactive VR, UK Premiere
Museum Of Austerity
United Kingdom
Lead Artists: Sacha Wares, John Pring
Museum of Austerity is a mixed reality exhibition that preserves memories of public and private events from the austerity era. Room 1 of the exhibition, previewing at LFF, records personal stories of disabled benefit claimants who died between 2010 – 2020. Combining verbal testimony, original music, and groundbreaking volumetric capture, this exhibition implores audiences to contemplate the human impact of austerity. Co-produced by English Touring Theatre, the National Theatre Immersive Storytelling Studio and Trial & Error, this powerful installation combines the skills of theatre/XR director Sacha Wares with the in-depth knowledge of John Pring, editor of Disability News Service.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street
Duration: 30 minutes
Notes: Co-Commissioned by BFI London Film Festival, Premier Preview of Work-in-Progress, Free, Registration required
Noah’s Raft
Lead Artists: Joel Kachi Benson, Tal Michael Haring
‘No person shall be denied the right to education.’ This privilege has been declared a human right by the United Nations, but has still not become a reality for many children around the world. For the children of Makoko, a floating slum on the outskirts of Lagos, education is barely a presence in their lives. They are simply raised to help their parents and schooling is often perceived as a threat to the community’s traditions. But Noah Shemede, a committed education worker, follows his dream and sets up a floating primary school with the mission to change his community through education.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 12 minutes
Notes: UK Premiere
Only Expansion
United Kingdom
Lead Artist: Duncan Speakman
As sea levels rise and wildfires burn, Only Expansion remixes the sound of the city around you to conjure up a sonic portrait of how your life might change in the future. A beautifully produced guidebook prompts you to explore London’s Southbank; you can choose your own route as customized headphones capture and manipulate the sounds that surround you. Field recordings of climate collapse bleed into this environment – you might hear your city as it sinks beneath waves or is battered by desert winds. A powerful and impressionistic reflection on what it means to live on a planet in crisis, Only Expansion Connects the here to the elsewhere, letting you experience our troubled environment through sound.
Presentation Location: BFI Southbank
Duration: 40 minutes
Lead Artist: Hsin-Chien Huang
Taiwanese artist and filmmaker Hsin-Chien Huang’s latest immersive project explores the outer limits of time, space and the myriad forms of life. In a not-too-distant future, the Earth’s environment has been destroyed by humans, its final extinction the result of nuclear conflict. A few surviving species find a new home in space and re-engineer their bodies to evolve into a new spiritual form. The artist touches upon existential themes such as the fluidity of time, reincarnation and the energising power of people’s creative will.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 21 minutes
Notes: Interactive VR, UK Premiere
Virtually There
United Kingdom
Lead Artist: Leon Oldstrong
Leon Oldstrong’s first VR film shines a light on a violent knife crime from multiple perspectives in an attempt to empathise with all parties involved. Knife crimes have increased in the UK by 80% since 2014 and are at the highest number since comparable data began to be collected. One in four victims are men aged 18-24 and 25% of victims are black. Oldstrong takes the humans behind these statistics as a starting point for his first endeavour into VR filmmaking, building a foundation for a great emotional understanding of the devastating impact of knife crime amongst young people.
Presentation Location: 26 Leake Street, The Expanse
Duration: 23 minutes
Notes: UK Premiere
For more information about the 65th BFI London Film Festival taking place Wednesday 6th-Sunday 17th October 2021, please visit
About the BFI
We are a cultural charity, a National Lottery distributor, and the UK’s lead organisation for film and the moving image.
Our mission is:
  • To support creativity and actively seek out the next generation of UK storytellers
  • To grow and care for the BFI National Archive, the world’s largest film and television archive
  • To offer the widest range of UK and international moving image culture through our programmes and festivals – delivered online and in venue
  • To use our knowledge to educate and deepen public appreciation and understanding
  • To work with Government and industry to ensure the continued growth of the UK’s screen industries
Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.
The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Tim Richards.
The BFI London Film Festival
BFI London Film Festival is Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s best film festivals. It introduces the finest new British and international films to an expanding London and UK-wide audience and attracts significant international film industry participation. LFF is a compelling combination of diverse films, red carpet glamour, friendly audiences and vibrant exchange. LFF provides an essential profiling opportunity for films seeking global success; promotes the careers of British and international filmmakers through its industry and awards programmes and positions London as the world’s leading creative city.
Tricia Tuttle Biography
Tricia Tuttle continues her role as Director of BFI Festivals for the fourth year. She was appointed following working as Artistic Director of the 62nd Edition of the BFI London Film Festival in 2018, and five successful years as Deputy Head of Festivals at BFI, including BFI Flare and BFI London Film Festival. Tricia has been instrumental in evolving BFI Festivals, meeting the challenges of a global pandemic head on and creating a new hybrid model for the LFF in 2020 and evolving the structure for 2021. Her work has seen an expanded audience reach year on year both in the UK and internationally. Tricia has introduced impactful initiatives such UK-wide cinema venue partnerships, digital screenings, LFF For Free and also BFI Flare’s FiveFilms4Freedom, in partnership with the British Council. Tricia has worked to broaden the scope of the Festival, spearheading new strands including LFF Expanded which sees the Festival present virtual, augmented and mixed reality works and co-commissions, as well as the Festival’s new focus on series and episodic work. On the industry side, she is also working to turn LFF into a globally recognised destination for the discovery of new British Talent. Under her tenure, the LFF has welcomed some of the world’s finest filmmakers and creatives to London, offering UK audiences unique opportunities to see some of the most anticipated new films and awards contenders. Particular highlights include opening the 64th edition of the Festival with Steve McQueen’s MANGROVE in 2021 in the first time the Festival has opened with a work made for broadcast, and the international premiere of THE IRISHMAN in 2019 which saw Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci grace the red carpet. Significant world premieres in her tenure include Pixar’s Oscar winning SOUL, Peter Jackson’s THOU SHALL NOT GROW OLD and this year’s Festival opener THE HARDER THEY FALL from Londoner Jeymes Samuel.
Moving from North Carolina in 1997 to complete a joint MA at BFI and Birkbeck, University of London in Film and TV Studies, Tricia’s passion for film has seen her work as a programmer, lecturer, writer and journalist. Her career has spanned a five year tenure at BAFTA, starting in 2008 and with her appointment as Film Programme Manager in 2011; programming the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (the pre-cursor to BFI Flare) and as Event Producer at London’s The Script Factory.
Ulrich Schrauth Biography
BFI London Film Festival’s Expanded curator, Ulrich Schrauth, is seated at the center of the Metaverse. He simultaneously brings a niche expertise and global perspective to the London landscape, having repeatedly catapulted VR projects into the public eye through his various leadership roles with international organizations. In 2020, Schrauth became the inaugural curator for LFF Expanded’s strand of Immersive Art and XR programming, and was largely responsible for shifting the Festival’s full slate into the virtual realm. In 2021, he’ll revise this format to be both an on-the-ground and online hybrid offering, leveraging his many years of experience in theatre and music festival production and furthering the accessibility of XR.
Schrauth’s impact resonates throughout many 360 spheres, where he’s known for his diverse contributions to the medium of Virtual Reality; he serves as the Creative Director of the “VRHAM! Virtual Reality & Arts Festival” in Hamburg, is a known Speaker and Moderator at revered SXSW Festival, Cannes Film Festival, the European Jazz Conference and others, and often juries the Fedora Digital Art Prize, Laval Virtual, and the VREFEST. His undeniable zeal for and dedication to art and technology makes him an interdisciplinary asset and integral part of the projects he engages.
Ulrich Schrauth Curatorial Statement
‘What is left of reality?’
None of us is able to answer this question with certainty in these unpredictable times. Every social, political and personal conviction has wavered – nothing seems to make sense anymore. The global pandemic, a rise in hate and violence, and the impending climate collapse are just external signs of a world that no longer seems to make any sense. It’s also a world in which reality and fiction have become inseparable. As a result, we exist in a constant state of trying to reorient ourselves – to question our perspective on the world and in relation to each other.
It’s this state that the artists and filmmakers in our LFF Expanded programme explore. Each adopts a distinctive route, by way of the most innovative technologies, to present new realities. These works embody the uniqueness of each artist’s voice and imagination in asking us to question the world as we see it; from the tension between the public and the private, and in redefining the boundaries between intimate and collective experience.
The artists in the LFF Expanded programme come from a wide variety of disciplines: film, visual art, theatre, dance, design and architecture. Each approaches the world with distinctive narrative styles, aesthetic means and adoption of immersive technologies.
We’re excited to invite you to view the world from a different perspective and to experience it through the rich imagination of our artists and filmmakers.
-Ulrich Schrauth
About American Express
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About American Express® Experiences
Through American Express Experiences, Cardmembers have access to presale tickets, as well as the best seats and exclusive offers at some of the UK’s most sought-after entertainment events via partnerships with a range of institutions, including The British Film Institute, AEG, Live Nation, Somerset House, and the National Theatre. Amex Experiences is just one example of the powerful backing that American Express provides its customers.
INVR.SPACE is a full-service VR Studio, Rental House as well as immersive media Research Facility, working with international Partners on award winning projects all over the world. As we love the medium and even more to explore new narratives and possibilities to create outstanding artworks, we aim for collaborations with partners that want to explore the possible impact of immersive media with us, through storytelling and social collaboration.
Currently, beside creating the virtual platform for and in collaboration with the BFI, INVR has two projects premiering in the competition section of the Venice Biennale 2020 (African Space Makers & Terrain) as well as more than a dozen exciting and innovative projects in production.
The BFI London Film Festival platform has been built by Sönke Kirchhof (Executive Producer).
About the National Theatre
The National Theatre’s mission is to make world-class theatre, for everyone.
The NT creates and shares unforgettable stories with audiences across the UK and around the world. On its own stages, on tour, in schools, on cinema screens and streaming at home, it strives to be accessible, inclusive and sustainable.
The National Theatre empowers artists and craftspeople to make world-leading work, investing in talent and developing new productions with a wide range of theatre companies at its New Work Department. Our nation thrives on fresh talent and new ideas, so the National Theatre works with young people and teachers right across the UK through performance, writing and technical programmes to ignite the creativity of the next generation.
Together with communities, the NT creates ambitious works of participatory theatre in deep partnerships that unite theatres and local organisations – showing that nothing brings us together like theatre.
The National Theatre needs your support to shape a bright, creative future.
For more information, please visit @NationalTheatre @NT_PressOffice