Groundbreaking debuts and genre-bending gems that coloured the reflective quality of this year’s festival.
No idea can be built without sacrifices.
It is time for our turn to introduce you to the films we admired and loved from the 60th BFI London Film Festival. With 245 films, it’s impossible to include every single best work that screened in 14 cinemas around London. But this year’s festival that celebrated exceptional films from around the world, called for equality, observation and imagination for evolutionary thinking in favour of our society today.
How did we get here with a United Kingdom on the verge of a tragic shatter from the outside world? How did we allow to let Europe crack its democratic foundations. And what now?
If we cannot see through this misty glass, what other film would be appropriate for the festival’s opening than director Amma Asante’s astonishing A United Kingdom. This powerful love story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanalane (modern Botswana) and his wife Ruth Williams whose their 1948 marriage was fiercely opposed, inaugurated the BFI London Film Festival with deep political insights.
The following days of the festival evolved equally thoughtful and every single day had something special to offer. Below we have put together ten of our best films from this year, a wild discovery and best poster art.
But before you delve into our selection, special mentions go the five-directors collaborative Hong Kong production Ten Years, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, Alma Har’el’s Lovetrue, Peter Braatz’s Blue Velvet Revisited, Anja Kirschner’s Moderation, Brillante Ma Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa, Alice Diop’s On Call, Khushboo Ranka’s An Insignificant Man, Gareth Tunley’s The Ghoul and George Clark’s Sea of Clouds for their originality. We’re hoping to see each one of these works released soon. Congratulations to director Steve McQueen for being awarded the prestigious BFI Fellowship and last but not least, to the awards winners: Kelly Reichardt for Certain Women (LFF Best Film prize), Julia Ducournau for Raw (Sutherland Award, Best First Feature prize) and Mehrdad Oskouei for Starless Dreams (Grierson Award for Best Documentary).
Director Pablo Larraín
It’s three years after the end of WW2 and all of Chile’s bourgeoisie is at the dressing-up party of Nobel Prize-winning poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda. Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s latest project, Neruda, is as he calls it an ‘anti-bio’, plot-genius chase story trumpeting the return of Hitchcockian thriller. At its centre there’s a magnetic cast: the brilliant Luis Gnecco’s Neruda, his ‘eternal’ wife, Mercedes Morán’s Delia and heart-throb Gael García Bernal’s detective Oscar Peluchonneau.
Director-screenwriter Cristi Puiu
Romanian cinema’s enfant naturel, Christi Puiu, returned with a new distinctive feature – a fly on the wall of a crowded family’s flat. As they prepare for their patriarch to be departed according to their local custom, patience, emotions and hunger are tested. Sieranevada is an astonishing achievement for its technical manoeuvres but above all is a film about bonding and compassion.
Director Sofia Exarchou
Park follows a group of bored youths gathering in the concrete wasteland of Athens’ Olympic village. With no much hope in life, the deserted site becomes the playground for teenage kicks and aggression. With her majority-female crew and a group of wild non-actors teenagers, director Sofia Exarchou’s debut feature is a triumphant addition to the Greek new wave.
Director-screenwriter Hope Dickson Leach
Another woman debuting with a bold project, Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling advocates Britain’s deep recession and the frailty of people’s lives, especially those who are being impacted the most. British farmers are not an exception and for once there’s a feature commenting on home affairs instead of overseas.
Director-screenwriter Fiona Tan
Ascent, the Experimenta Special Presentation at this year’s festival, is an ode to nature, image and travelling. Examining the themes of presence, photography and memory, the relationship between history and nature, tale and tradition, these reflections on time begin an investigation into the presence of the Mount-Fuji, an active volcano in Japan.
Director Eva Orner
We learnt from director Eva Orner’s film that Australia ranks 67th in the world for refugee intake. In 2001, Australia’s prime minister announced the harshest asylum seekers policies and as of 2013, no asylum seeker is allowed to settle in the country. Currently there are 60 million refugee people in the world. After stopping the boats, 2,175 asylum seekers are stranded in the island of Nauru in no hygiene conditions and numbers of mental health and self harming cases. Filmed secretly, Chasing Asylum is a bitter document of our history.
Director-screenwriter Claire Simon
Ever wondered how to become a film student in a prestigious French college? The Graduation took us through the selection process of world-class school of cinema, La Fémis in Paris. It reminisces Frederic Wiseman’s At Berkeley (2013) and aside from its moments of compassion for the applicants who go through the process of interviews, Claire Simon’s documentary is an insightful study of one’s personal processes and career transitions. A must see for all regardless of age and don’t be afraid to push things further even when there’s rejection.
Director Antonio Campos
Antonio Campos’s volatile film about television journalist Christine Chubbuck who died at the age of 29 after killing herself live during a broadcast, was a festival favourite. Brilliantly performed by Rebecca Hall, Christine loved the medium. But the astonishing dark side of people surrounding her at work and their thirst for inventive ideas meant that she had to adapt to a compromised and fake future, to which she didn’t give in.
Director Pepa San Martin
Our pick from the festival’s Love strand is Pepa San Martin’s explosive Rara with four strong female leads who try to fight for their happiness. Unconventional to their patriarchic society, their bonding slowly falls apart but their love for each other is moving.
Don’t Blink: Robert Frank
Director Laura Israel
‘The photographs are just a memory…’. In this spellbinding documentary world-known photographer Robert Frank took us through his creative life with starting point his book that defined photojournalism, The Americans. It’s energy is riotous featuring a compelling soundtrack and footage from his never released film with the Rolling Stones. Restless, absorbing and most inspirational.
Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of Frank Percy Smith
Director Stuart A Staples
We immersed into the wild imagery of Minute Bodies, a hypnotic and magical tribute to the world of naturalist and pioneering microscopic filmmaker Frank Percy Smith (1880-1945). It is the latest collaboration between Tinderstick’s Stuart A Staples and filmmaker Dave Reeve that combines a constantly evolving soundtrack with the hidden life of nature as filmed by Smith’s lenses. It’s the jewel in the festival’s crown, which we should be seeing its general release hopefully soon.