Leiden International Film Festival: get your popcorn ready for 2019!

Pop your popcorn, jump into your cosiest of sweaters, and get your artificially coloured sweets ready: Leiden International Film Festival (otherwise known as LIFF) is back, from the 31st October to the 10th November in the historical city of Leiden.

LIFF began in 2006, and since then it has been one of the most important events of the Dutch film calendar. This year, you can look forward to eleven whole days of film in cinemas all around Leiden. And this isn’t a festival aimed only at indie film nerds. Whether you love a good story, beautiful scenery and framing, or heart-wrenching drama, there will be something for you at this festival. Old favourites like The Blair Witch Project, The Life of Brian and 10 Things I Hate About You will be playing throughout the week for you to enjoy. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover some new favourite films or genres, if you’re adventurous enough!

Probably not the best film festival in the world

As you might already have guessed, LIFF prides itself on being open to anyone. In line with this welcoming image, they’ve come up with an amazing (and hilarious) theme for this year’s festival. It is, and we quote: “Are we the best film festival in the world? Probably not.” We adore this brutally honest (and very Dutch) promotion tactic. But just in case you’re taken in with this modesty, it’s worth saying that LIFF attracted well over 40,000 visitors last year, and has really made its mark on the international film scene over the last fourteen years.

Opening Film at Leiden International Film Festival

The opening film for this year is Jojo Rabbit, a film that I, at least, have never seen the likes of before. It’s about a young boy in Nazi Germany who is fully behind the regime- to the point that his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. However, his beliefs become conflicted (to say the least) when he discovers that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl in the attic of their house. The film is weird, heartwarming, and very funny: we can’t wait to see it.

Bye Bye Britain Brunch at Leiden International Film Festival

Ok, we are massive fans of this concept– not only because it’s brunch (though that’s enough to get us interested in anything) but also because this event is all about British film. Munch on your English breakfast, and potentially nurse a hangover following Brexit maybe, actually, happening on the 31st. We’re excited to join LIFF in watching the best of British film at this event, while eating a fry-up for the added rise in blood pressure.

Leiden International Film Festival’s competitions in 2019

LIFF is hosting two competitions during this year’s festival, and we’re beyond excited about them. The first is the American Indie Competition, which does exactly what it says on the tin: it showcases independent movies that give you insights into contemporary and historical America. You can expect unusual romances, young adult films, and fascinating, innovative ways of looking at life itself in this competition. Eight films will be shown throughout the week, so we advise trying to see them all, if you can. You can find the full list of American Indie Competition films here.

The second competition is a new addition to LIFF: a competition for debut filmmakers. LIFF has always been a place for you to discover new films from new talent. Now the festival’s reputation in this regard is being consolidated with a competition to find the best of the best. This competition has twelve contenders, which you can check out here!

3 films you absolutely have to see at Leiden International Film Festival

There are so many films that we’re excited to see at LIFF, and we do advise you to run through the entire programme yourself to pick from the wide array of choice there. BUT. There are three films we couldn’t resist yelling about here. So without further ado, here are our top three films at Leiden International Film Festival 2019.

Sorry We Missed You

Sorry We Missed You is directed by Ken Loach, who created I, Daniel Blake (for those of you who haven’t watched this emotional film about being caught in the bureaucratic nightmare of the British benefits system, you need to do so right now). So we’re incredibly excited to see this new film from Loach, which follows the family of a delivery driver. The family struggle to get by in the current economic climate of zero-hours contracts and low wages. It will make you think totally differently about the people who deliver your packages.



This film is about a boy called Luce, who was adopted by an American family after being a child soldier. He’s been an A-student all throughout high school, but when he writes an essay in favour of political violence, his teacher and family are worried. This film promises to be fast-paced, exciting and heartrending. It’s also one of the films competing in the American Indie Competition.


Finally, there’s Flatland– a western with a twist. Now, you may be wondering if DutchReview is living in the past, reccomending westerns in 2019. But no: this is a western unlike any you’ve ever seen. After a disastrous wedding night in which an accidental killing takes place, Natalie flees from her husband with her best friend Poppie (who happens to be heavily pregnant). The film is based in a South African rural town.

Other events at Leiden International Film Festival

Now, we wouldn’t complain if the entire festival was comprised of film screening after film screening. But for those of you unaccustomed to staring at a screen for extended periods of time, LIFF also offers you the opportunity to take part in film-themed events around the city. There are club nights like Funked Up and Leiden Soul Night, LIFF’s famous Film Quiz, and a VR Experience on Saturday 9th November. That’s just a sample of what’s on offer: more events can be found in the Programme.

So, will we see you at LIFF? And what’s your favourite film? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature image: Annick Elzenga/Supplied. 

Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.


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