The 36th Leeds International Film Festival begins tomorrow and it seems a good time to reflect on film festivals in the UK. Since the COVID shutdown, I have still not returned to full-time cinemagoing which means I’ve missed my usual trips to London, Glasgow and Manchester for HOME’s two specialist festivals. In the meantime I’ve been grateful for online festivals and access to previews, but the scope of my film watching, especially of new films, has been reduced. I have other reasons why travelling to venues is a problem, but  mainly it is the collapse of rail services this year in the North of England which has put me off going to Manchester and London in particular. Fortunately, Leeds is less difficult to get to so I hope to see something this year.

With the uncertain future of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2023 following the collapse of the company that runs both the festival and the two cinemas, Filmhouse in Edinburgh, home of the festival, and the Belmont in Aberdeen, Leeds looks likely to rise up the league table of UK film festivals. With films from 78 countries appearing at venues across the city this year and with the total number of screenings rivalling both London and Glasgow, Leeds has a new opportunity to shine.

The brochure shown above is downloadable from and this years programme has the usual Leeds sections of ‘Official Selection’, Cinema Versa (Documentary), Fanomenon (horror, fantasy and science fiction and other genres) and Short Films. This year there are three ‘Spotlight Programmes’: ‘Films Femmes Afrique: Women Creators of the Future’, ‘Disability Futures’ and ‘One Love for Jamaica’. It looks like a great programme and we wish the festival team well for their fifteen day extravaganza. There have been some technical problems with ticketing but they seem to be sorted out now and I’ve purchased tickets online with no problems. Regular visitors should note that two of the best  loved venues are not available this year. The refurbishment and expansion of the Hyde Park Cinema in Headingley has suffered delays and the cinema is now expected to re-open in Spring 2023. At the same time, the £15.3 million refurbishment and expansion of facilities at Leeds Town Hall means it is closed for events until 2024. The future of both these venues looks exciting but the result is that most of the screenings at LIFF this year will be at the Vue in the Light Centre and the Everyman in the Trinity Shopping Centre with smaller numbers of screenings at other venues in the city centre and at the Cottage Road Cinema in Headingley.

I have tickets for screenings in the last few days of the festival, including the documentary about Patricia Highsmith above, and I will be posting reports then – but feel free to give your comments here on your LIFF experiences.