Official Selection

The Official Selection is at the heart of the LIFF programme, an extensive representation of new filmmaking and diverse voices from around the world. Among the 42 selected features are some of the most talked about films of the year, prize-winners from Berlin, Cannes, and Venice film festivals, and 16 debuts from exciting new filmmaking talent.

LIFF 2021 opens on 3rd November with Pablo Larrain’s eagerly awaited Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart in a mesmerising performance as Princess Diana. Many more new films from some of the world’s leading filmmakers follow Spencer, including Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God), Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Lingui, the Sacred Bonds), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Memoria). New British films are highlights throughout the LIFF 2021 programme and Official Selection includes Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir: Part II and our closing film Ali & Ava, Clio Barnard’s acclaimed new drama filmed in Bradford.

Cinema Versa

Cinema Versa assembles a truly diverse array of incredible new documentaries as the world opens up again to face a vast range of new challenges. Candidates for non-fiction film of the year include Flee, an animated Danish odyssey about a migrant’s journey from Afghanistan and Mr Bachmann and His Class, a patiently observed portrait of an inspirational German teacher. Leading British director Andrea Arnold makes her first documentary feature with empathetic and moving Cow and the inimitable cinephile Mark Cousins returns with The Story of Film: A New Generation.

Inspiring tales of activism and resistance proliferate in The New Corporation, Unapologetic and Dear Future Children and The Ants and the Grasshopper offers new perspectives on the responses to climate change. Transform! is a brilliant new film about disability and dance and there are a great clutch of new music docs led by I Get Knocked Down featuring homegrown Leeds heroes, Chumbawumba.


Fanomenon is the largest annual programme in the UK for film fans looking for the latest in action, anime, fantasy, horror, sci-fi films, and more. Fanomenon 2021 features an expanded Planet Japan selection as part of BFI Japan 2021, with 14 films including opening film The Town of Headcounts, closing film The Man Who Stole the Sun – a rarely screened ‘70s cult classic presented on 35mm, and the International Premiere of anime Summer Ghost.

Fanomenon is well known for its horror selections and our line-up this year includes Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, chilling Norwegian drama The Innocents in our Day of the Dead marathon, and extreme postpandemic nightmare The Sadness in our two Night of the Dead double-bills. Our new Queer Fear selection – launching this year with The Old Dark House and The Haunting – aims to bring to light the narratives, filmmakers and characters that chart queer communities’ lasting fascination with the horror genre.

Leeds Short Film Awards

The Leeds Short Film Awards celebrate the incredible short film form in all its glory. This year we present 1 32 short films from 42 countries in seven jam-packed competitions. The Oscar-qualifying International Short Film Competition and World Animation Competition include the most exciting new filmmaking talent from around the world, from Slovakia to Senegal. This year the BAFTA-qualifying British Short Film Competition has expanded into three abundant programmes, and the ever-popular Yorkshire Short Film Competition returns with the latest marvels from this fine county.

Leeds Queer Film Festival has lovingly curated the Leeds Queer Short Film Competition and there are also spotlights on Music Videos and Screendance. All the competitions are considered by official juries and the winning short films will be presented in one magnificent programme at the end of LIFF 2021 at Everyman and on Leeds Film Player. The details of the short films in each competition are available on and in the LIFF 2021 Catalogue, available during the film festival.

Rear View

Rear View is our look back at film history with themed selections and special screenings, featuring films very rarely screened in cinemas. Our Kafkaesque Cinema selection, in partnership with the University of Leeds, features five films that resonate with ideas in the writings of novelist Franz Kafka. The selection includes Ferdinand Khittl’s The Parallel Street from West Germany, Hugo Santiago’s Invasión from Argentina, and Ousmane Sembene’s Xala from Senegal, screening on 35mm.

In partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute, we present a selection of films based on the work of sci-fi writer Stanisław Lem, in the year of the centenary of his birth. The selection features Marek Piestrak’s Pilot Pirx’s Inquest, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and a short film programme with legendary animators the Quay Brothers in attendance.

Rear View also includes a selection of Japanese film masterpieces from the BFI Japan 2021 touring programme, with two Akira Kurosawa films – Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood, Yasujirô Ozu’s Tokyo Story, and Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses.