Toronto: the BFI Film Fund dozen

Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI Film Fund, tells us why the Fund chose to support the 12 BFI-backed films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Ben Roberts
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Belle

Director Amma Asante

Belle (2013)

Belle (2013)

Belle was developed at the Film Fund and it was the first production we greenlit after I joined the BFI. The script spun what we know of heritage cinema in new directions, but at its heart there is a romance that will make you swoon. I’m pleased that Belle has put Amma back on the map as a significant filmmaker.

The Double

Director Richard Ayoade

The Double (2013)

The Double (2013)

Richard is a cineaste and it’s front and centre in his films. Where Submarine riffed on French cinema and the New Wave, The Double promised to reference elements of Chaplin with touches of expressionism – and the humour was denser but also more physical. I really think he’s a brilliant filmmaker.

Half of a Yellow Sun

Director Biyi Bandele

We wanted to support Biyi’s incredible ambitious and epic adaption for his feature debut. He is brilliantly supported by his first-rate cast - as you would expect Chiwetel is exceptional.

How I Live Now

Director Kevin Macdonald

The script for How I Live Now contained many remarkable moments which burnt onto the brain, and Kevin and Saoirse were the pieces of the puzzle that shifted it into gear. It’s a very bold and quite unique piece of material which presents its young protagonists with the full force of a war we can’t begin to imagine.

InRealLife

Director Beeban Kidron

InRealLife (2013)

InRealLife (2013)

Beeban wanted to do something potentially uncomfortable that explored teenage life in an online world. As it turned out, her instincts were completely on the nose and there couldn’t be a more timely moment to present the film. There is probably a TV series in the amount of material she pulled together.

The Invisible Woman

Director Ralph Fiennes

I keep using the word ‘impeccable’ to describe the film. I came to it quite late, in post-production, and I found it a beautifully crafted film. Quite remarkable what Ralph has achieved in direction while also delivering such a complex portrait of Dickens in his performance. Felicity Jones is wonderful.

Philomena

Director Stephen Frears

Philomena (2013)

Philomena (2013)

This was impossible to resist. The script was so sad and yet laugh out loud funny. We felt that it very much played to Frears’ strengths. Plus, you can’t imagine anyone other than Judi Dench in the role and she is just brilliant as ever.

The Selfish Giant

Director Clio Barnard

What’s remarkable about The Selfish Giant is how effortlessly Clio brought in the film, against the odds. Although she worked on the film until she was perfectly happy with it, I don’t remember a time when a first cut has felt so complete and satisfying. She has done brilliant work with her young actors. I will be first in line to see what she does next.

A Story of Children and Film

Director Mark Cousins

A Story of Children and Film (2013)

A Story of Children and Film (2013)

We supported Mark’s epic The Story of Film, which was a big success internationally and continues to be screened around the world. The proposal for A Story of Children and Film was full of surprising choices and avenues. Mark presents ideas and images, and makes connections in film, which you realise you have never previously considered.

Sunshine on Leith

Director Dexter Fletcher

Like many, I thought Dexter’s first film Wild Bill was a complete surprise – it displayed a knack for bringing genuine warmth and charm to his situations and characters. So although Sunshine on Leith on paper seemed a bit mad, Dexter swung it for us, along with a score of beautiful, quite folksy, songs. I think people will be surprised by this – I love it.

Under the Skin

Director Jonathan Glazer

This has had a long development and production history and I picked up the mantle some way into post while there was still much more that Jonathan wanted to do with the film. Each time I saw the film it got better and better. I think it’s a masterpiece and it’s been a real privilege to watch Jonathan work.

Le Week-end

Director Roger Michell

There was something sweet and sour about Hanif Kureishi’s script and Roger’s take on late middle-age which we thought audiences would relate to and enjoy. And we were excited to see the interplay between Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, which doesn’t disappoint.

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