The idea of the festival belongs to the group of critics, who in 1953 though of organizing a big film festival in Great Britain. Their festival was to be alike such renowned festivals, as in Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh. The festival would give the audience an opportunity to watch the films, that had never been screened in British cinemas.
However, their idea wasn’t realized till 1956, when the very first BFI London Film Festival was held. The festival was running from October 16 till 26, and its program wasn’t very rich. Only 15-20 films were screened that year, but the names of their directors were already known to the audience: Akira Kurosawa, Andrzej Wajda, Luchino Visconti, Yasujirō Ozu.
The current program of the festival is richer than it was in the beginning. Nowadays the audience is presented with over 300 films, including shorts and documentary, from around 50 countries. The highly anticipated films, that have never been screened in Great Britain, and the films by young directors are preferred. Also restored filmed are frequently screened.
The BFI London Film Festival has a competitive part, and its main award is the Sutherland Trophy. It was created in 1958 and named after the British Film Institute’s patron George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 5th Duke of Sutherland. The trophy was awarded to such prominent directors as Bernardo Bertolucci, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard and Michelangelo Antonioni.
The other awards are also presented during the festival. For instance, the Grierson Award, that is given for the best documentary, Best British Newcomer Award (given to directors, producers and screenwriters), BFI Fellowship and other awards, that are given to different organizations.