The BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express today announces the winners of this year’s LFF Awards. The competition sections are a celebration of the most exciting, innovative new films and cinematic storytelling; creative, beautiful and often provocative, the films showcase an incredible range of talent from across the world.
The winning films, which were chosen by four esteemed LFF juries, explore a fascinating breadth of themes and stories, including a drama about a community fighting to preserve its principles, a spirited tale of siblings enjoying the pleasures and pitfalls of life ‘home alone’, a deeply personal and joyful exploration of a filmmaker’s relationship her mother, and a poetic film that documents the experiences of queer Nigerians. The winning feature films will screen again this evening to close the festival, while the winning short film is available to watch for free until the end of the festival on BFI Player.
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The popular Audience Awards also returns for 2023, with audiences being able to vote for their favourite work they saw at this year’s Festival, be it fiction, documentary, short or immersive work. Four awards for Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best British Film or Work and Best XR will be awarded; voting opens today at 16:00 and closes at 23:59 on Thursday 19 October.
The winners of this year’s films screening In Competition are:
- Winner of the Best Film Award in Official Competition – Evil Does Not Exist (Dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
- Winner of the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition – Paradise Is Burning (Dir. Mika Gustafson)
- Winner of the Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition – Bye Bye Tiberias (Dir. Lina Soualem)
- Winner of the Short Film Award in the Short Film Competition – The Archive: Queer Nigerians (Dir. Simisolaoluwa Akande)
This year’s jury presidents were: Amat Escalante (Official Competition), Raine Allen-Miller (First Feature Competition), Rubika Shah (Documentary Competition) and Charlotte Regan (Short Film Competition).
Evil Does Not Exist – Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Official Competition (Best Film Award)
Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s new drama sees a community fighting to preserve its principles and the integrity of their natural world. A camping site development that’s under way in the peaceful village of Mizubiki will forever change the community and surrounding environment. The investors feel differently: ‘A little pollution won’t affect the water’. Driven by Hamaguchi’s sonorous and poetic script, his drama, a microcosm of wider concerns, burrows deep into the pressing issues of value and survival but never loses faith in humanity.
The Official Competition jury said: “The Official Competition jury has chosen Evil Does Not Exist as the London Film Festival Best Film for 2023. Subtle, cinematic and underscored by fully realised performances, Hamaguchi’s assured drama supersedes the sum of its parts. It is both a lyrical portrait of family and community, and a nuanced consideration of the ethics of land development. Amid a strong competition the jury is unanimous in our admiration!”
Ryusuke Hamaguchi said: “I’m genuinely delighted and astonished to hear the news about this award. Sincerely, thank you very much. My heartfelt thanks go out to all involved, especially the cast and crew who diligently toiled behind the scenes. Their exceptional work has always been a source of inspiration to me, and I am sincerely grateful for the result. I would also like to express my gratitude to the judges who recognised our efforts. I want to especially single out Eiko Ishibashi for her contribution to the music. As well as working on the music for the film Drive My Car, she also provided the concept for this film. I believe her music played a significant role in bringing this movie to completion and helped it to receive such great reviews. I hope this film brings joy to the British audience upon its UK release. And I look forward to visiting London once again in the future. Thank you for this truly wonderful award.”
Eve Gabereau of Modern Films, who are distributing the film in the UK, added that they “too are honoured to win Best Film at our home festival and by the way it was programmed in competition, received by audiences at the screenings and recognised by the jury to the highest level. It means so much that this beautiful and impactful film for our times of great social, political and ecological challenges has resonated deeply.”
Paradise Is Burning – Mika Gustafson, First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award)
A trio of arresting and naturalistic performances power this spirited tale of siblings enjoying the pleasures and pitfalls of life ‘home alone’. With their mother absent since Christmas, sisters Laura, Mira and Steffi are used to fending for themselves – finding joy in their freedom and endless illicit capers. Each is on the cusp of something new, but all their futures hang in the balance. Drawing out vivid performances from her young cast, director Mika Gustafson’s exquisite rendering of character and emotion is, quite simply, a revelation.
The First Feature jury said: “We would like to give the Sutherland Prize to Mika Gustafson’s masterful debut, Paradise Is Burning. What a journey. Not only was this a remarkable first feature, but a film that in its own right has such clarity of cinematic language and vision. It’s compelling universe was so complete and effortlessly executed. Nothing has been left untended to in this film, we were THERE, not like a fly on the wall or an intruder; it held us in its arms and it didn’t let us go.”
Mika Gustafson, said: “It is a great honour to receive the Sutherland Trophy for Best First Feature at BFI London Film Festival. Previously awarded to such greats as Julia Decournau and Andrea Arnold. This gives me a lot of energy and courage to keep working and on my next project!”
Bye Bye Tiberias – Lina Soualem, Documentary Competition (Grierson Award)
Lina Soualem’s deeply personal and joyful exploration of her relationship with her mother, the acclaimed actor Hiam Abbass. It’s clear that Abbass (Lemon Tree, Insyriated, Blade Runner 2049, Succession) was always destined to be a major screen presence. Soualem’s love letter to her mother follows the actor as she returns home to the village she grew up in. Drawing on a rich trove of archive footage, this beautiful and intimate documentary finds the artist returning home and reconnecting with the women of Tiberias, Palestine and beyond.
The Documentary Competition jury said: “In Bye Bye Tiberias, Lina Soualem has woven an elegant exploration of three generations of women in her family and the places that made them. She has created a poetic and intimate film that transcends the borders of their family home, to interrogate grief, identity, and the energy that propels you to find yourself.”
Lina Soualem said: “Karim Kattan, a Palestinian writer who contributed to the writing of Bye Bye Tiberias, recently wrote: ‘In the midst of this turmoil that has only just begun, we must summon heart and vision. First, I want to thank the audiences in London for coming to see the film and receiving it with such warmth and generosity. With all my heart, I thank the jury at the BFI London Film Festival that chose to award Bye Bye Tiberias with the Grierson Award, which recognises documentaries with integrity, originality and social or cultural significance.
“I thank them for celebrating the stories of the Palestinian women of my family, for having seen their struggles, felt their strength, mourned their losses, understood their complexities and accepted their contradictions. I thank them for having seen their humanity, and for deciding to highlight it. The stories passed on by these women weave the history of a people deprived of its identity and constantly bound to reinvent itself. This is a story about vanished places, life-changing experiences, and scattered memories. By making this film, I followed the same path as the women in my family. Passing on our story has always been central for us. With our words, we fight against erasure. I wanted to seize their stories before they vanish into oblivion, to preserve the images of a world that is disappearing fast. Images that stand as proof of a denied existence. At a time when we feel unseen, and more stigmatized than ever, at a time when we don’t know what tomorrow will be like, our films will always exist to remember us.”
The Archive: Queer Nigerians – Simisolaoluwa Akande, Short Film Competition (Short Film Award)
This poetic film documents the experiences of queer Nigerians, expanding our contemporary understanding of how queerness is expressed.
The Short Film Competition jury said: “The Archive: Queer Nigerians takes the viewer through many emotions, it’s visually stunning and poetic in the way that it weaves together documentary and experimental styles. The subjects were held up in a positive and empathetic light through raw and intimate interviews, highlighting their vulnerability while also celebrating the joy of being your true self.”
“A special mention is given to Area Boy for its accomplished and confident directing. The jury look forward to seeing what Iggy London does next.”
Simisolaoluwa Akande said: “Receiving this prestigious award rings a sweet note of hope for stories like the ones our contributors courageously shared. We are immensely grateful for the warm embrace our film has received from the world. We are humbled by this recognition and eager to continue our journey of sharing vital narratives that deserve to be heard.
The Archive: Queer Nigerians is a testament against the erasure of queer existence, offering understanding and acceptance in a world that often seeks to silence our voices. It is our sincere hope that this archive continues to grow.
My heartfelt thanks to my dedicated team including producers Maxine Gordon, Ermias Asfaw, and Joseph Bushell, and our exceptional director of photography, Bea Macdonald. Gratitude to my supportive friends and my dear mother and sisters, my guiding light. Mommy, look, we won a BFI award!”
About the juries
The Official Competition jury was led by acclaimed Mexican film director, producer and screenwriter Amat Escalante, winner of the Best Director prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for Heli, and the Silver Lion for Best Director for The Untamed (Venice Film Festival 2016). His latest feature, Lost in the Night, played in the Thrill Strand of this year’s BFI London Film Festival.
The First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award) jury was headed up by British director Raine Allen-Miller whose universally praised directorial debut Rye Lane, was a breakthrough hit earlier this year. Award-winning writer-director and BAFTA Breakthrough recipient Rubika Shah led the jury selecting the winner of the Grierson Award for Best Documentary, after winning the award in 2019 for her film White Riot. The jury presidents were rounded off by BAFTA nominated and 2020 Screen International Star of Tomorrow writer and director Charlotte Regan, whose debut feature Scrapper had its world premiere at Sundance 2023 where it went on to win the World Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. She led the jury selecting the best short film.
Other jurors were: Official Competition (Best Film Award) – Programme Director of the 2023 Edinburgh International Film Festival, Kate Taylor and English Novelist Niven Govinden (Diary of a Film); First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award) – Festival Director of International Film Festival Rotterdam Vanja Kaludjercic and accomplished musician, composer, filmmaker and photographer Barry Adamson; Documentary Competition (Grierson Award) – award-winning documentary filmmaker Jeanie Finlay, whose latest film Your Fat Friend won the Sheffield DocFest Audience Award, and previous work includes BIFA nominated Seahorse and Australian film industry veteran Paul Tonta General Manager Theatrical Acquisitions and Film Festivals at Madman Entertainment; Short Film Competition – BFI Film Academy Young Programmer Francesca Tomlinson, who assists with the programming of the Future Film Festival and conducting live interviews for the BFI Film Academy and Rina Yang director of photography working across film, TV commercials and music videos whose credits include Euphoria for A24/HBO, ifor MGM, O’dessa for Searchlight pictures and the award winning Anti-Hero music video for Taylor Swift.
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