The 58th in partnership with American Express® announced this year’s Festival Awards’ winners at its high profile Awards ceremony at The Banqueting House, Whitehall, this evening. Guests included Ben Miller, Ben Rivers, Christopher Hampton, Sir David Hare, Dexter Fletcher, Ian Hart, James Corden, James McAvoy, Jeremy Thomas, John Hurt, Lynda Myles, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Luc Roeg, Sophie Fiennes and recipient of the BFI Fellowship Stephen Frears.
Official Competition winner – Best Film: Leviathan – Andrey Zvyagintsev
Celebrating the most original, intelligent and distinctive filmmaking, the winner of the Best Film Award is Zvyagintsev’s striking film that tells the tragic tale of conflict between an individual and a corrupt system in a small Russian town. The award was announced by Jeremy Thomas, BFI Fellow and President of the Official Competition jury.
Jeremy Thomas said:
We were all very engaged by the 12 films selected for Competition and really admired many of them, there were extraordinary stories and impressive images. But there was one film that we were unanimous in wanting to award Best Film, Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Its grandeur and themes moved all of us in the same way.
The jury also commended Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood about a young woman’s search for identity in the underprivileged suburbs of Paris.
Thomas’ fellow jurors were Ahmad Abdalla, director of last year’s Best Film Award nominee Rags & Tatters, whose film Décor received its world premiere at this year’s Festival, Chief Film Critic of Variety Scott Foundas, Malaysian film producer Lorna Tee, and BAFTA-winning and Golden Globe-nominated James McAvoy, whose film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby received its UK Premiere at the Festival.
First Feature Competition winner – The Sutherland Award: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy for The Tribe
The long-standing Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival and this year’s victor was the Ukrainian drama The Tribe, set in a school for young, deaf people and acted entirely in sign language. This year, the actor Ian Hart introduced the nominations and the winner was announced by the BAFTA-nominated producer Luc Roeg whose own film We Need to Talk about Kevin won the Best Film Award at the Festival in 2011.
Luc Roeg said:
This year’s Sutherland Award presented a varied and interesting line-up of films from around the world but Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe distinguished itself as the most original and powerful of all the contenders. The young non-professional cast were all exceptional, but special mention must go to Yana Novikova. Slaboshpytskiy makes an audacious and highly accomplished debut as writer-director and has marked himself out as a true auteur. It’s a pleasure and privilege to commend the work.
The jury also commended Naja Abu Nowar’s Theeb about orphaned brothers on a treacherous journey across the desert in the far reaches of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the Arab revolt.
As well as Ian Hart, Roeg’s fellow jurors were the actress Hermione Norris, producer and president of production at EOne, Xavier Marchand and the director, cinematographer and writer Ben Rivers.
Documentary Competition winner – The Grierson Award: Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait – Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan
The Grierson Award for the best documentary recognises outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance.
Announcing the winner was jury president, the director, writer and producer Sophie Fiennes whose own The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology screened at the Festival in 2012.
About this confronting account of life in Syria during the civil war Sophie Fiennes commented:
The jury were deeply affected by this film. Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan’s portrait of Syria is both unflinching and poetic. It is hard to watch, because the fact of war is and should be unbearable. Bedirxan’s passionate and courageous quest to be a reliable witness, while trying to comprehend and survive her desperate situation in Homs, is profoundly moving. Ossama Mohammed’s exile in Paris, resonates with our own safe distance from this war, but the miracle of the film is how it engages us.
Reaching this verdict with Fiennes were the Emmy®-winner and BAFTA-nominated producer and director Roy Ackerman, the Emmy®-winning producer and editor of Storyville Nick Fraser, Dogwoof’s head of distribution Oli Harbottle, and the BAFTA-nominated filmmaker and screenwriter Penny Woolcock.
Best British Newcomer: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – actor Catch Me Daddy
The Best British Newcomer Award is presented to the most promising writer, actor, producer or director with no previous track record in feature films or television. Jury president Finola Dwyer, the Oscar® and BAFTA-nominated film producer, announced the result.
Finola Dwyer said:
We were unanimous in our decision to award actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed the Best British Newcomer Award for her breakout performance in Catch Me Daddy. Sameena’s performance was very assured, confident and fearless. In the lead role of Laila, Sameena’s range of emotion was breathtaking; she was the heartbeat of the film.
Dwyers’ fellow jurors comprised the celebrated writer and novelist Monica Ali, the BAFTA-winning actor and writer James Corden, BAFTA-nominated director, actor and writer Dexter Fletcher, and the BAFTA-winning screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh.
BFI Fellowship Stephen Frears (as previously announced)
This year’s BFI Fellowship was presented to the British film director Stephen Frears by the celebrated British playwright and screenwriter Sir David Hare who said:
I can’t think of anyone who’s made a richer, more diverse or more consistently intelligent contribution to British film in my life-time.