62nd BFI London Film Festival Review
By Dr Ricky Ghosh Dastidar
The 62nd London Film Festival came to a close recently with the world premiere of Stan and Ollie; a biopic of iconic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy played by Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly respectively. The film focusses on their twilight years from 1953, and follows the duo as they embark on a tour of British seaside towns and music halls.
John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan at the World Premiere of Stan and Ollie
The festival began with a hotly-anticipated screening of Academy-award winning director Steve McQueen’s latest film Widows. Based on the 1980’s television series of the same name, this exciting heist movie tells the story of four women who team up to tackle some unfinished business left behind by their late husbands. Boasting strong performances from Liam Neeson, Viola Davis and Daniel Kaluuya in the main roles, Widows provided an electrifying start to the festival.
Viola Davis alongside Colin Farrell in a scene from Widows
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary was awarded this year to Roberto Minervini for his film, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? It focusses on a Louisiana community in the summer of 2017 and examines current race relations in the US. One of the judges, Oscar-winning filmmaker Simon Chinn described it as “a truly thought-provoking and all-too-urgent documentary. Through stunning and unflinching black and white frames we’re offered a raw and emotional snapshot of African-American life in the Deep South in the aftermath of a police shooting”
A scene from the documentary What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?
The Best Film award was presented to Sudabeh Mortezai for her film, Joy.
This engaging drama tackles the vicious cycle of sex trafficking in modern Europe.
It follows the life of Joy, a young Nigerian woman who works the streets to pay off debts to her exploiter Madame, while supporting her family in Nigeria and hoping for a better life for her young daughter in Vienna.
Director and jury-member, Lenny Abrahamson described Joy as “a provocative and unique film offering a devastating portrait of human resilience in the most inhuman of environments. A raw, fresh view on sex trafficking - director Sudabeh Mortezai successfully immerses us in the women’s lives with her documentarist approach exploring the traps of abuse without ever becoming exploitative itself. A vital and beautiful film that my fellow jurors and I urge you to watch’’.
The Sutherland Award for Best First Feature was presented to Belgian director Lukas Dhont for Girl. The film tells the story of Lara, a transgender teenager who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. Lukas Dhont’s richly empathetic and beautifully realised film explores Lara’s complex inner emotions and expresses much, even when the character herself struggles to find the words.
Francis Lee, the First Feature Competition President described it as an “extraordinary coming of age story featuring a truly remarkable central performance. It is not afraid to tackle a number of difficult subject matters which are dramatically effective and fully believable. This is an imaginative and original directorial debut and my fellow jurors and I are excited to see what Lukas Dhont does next”.
This year’s London Film Festival took place over 12 days and featured a total of 225 feature films. In a change from its usual award ceremony, the winners were revealed in front of a public audience at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square. This placed audiences at the centre of the awards celebration, and even allowed them to view three of the winning features as a surprise.