The 14th edition of the BFI Future Film Festival came to a close on Sunday, with the winners of the BFI Future Film Festival Awards, supported by Netflix, being announced at a virtual awards ceremony. Talented young filmmakers aged 16 to 25 that took home prizes include Rory Wilson (best film for Loco), Gustavo Gamero (best director for Instructions to Let Go) and Emmanuel Li (best new talent for Music for the End of the World).

These 3 awards were judged by our esteemed festival jury, led by Elizabeth Karlsen (Number 9 Films), who announced their choices at tonight’s ceremony; Karlsen was joined on the jury by activist and filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab (For Sama), broadcaster and filmmaker Reggie Yates (BBC3 Extreme Series) and actors Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) and Malachi Kirby (Mangrove).

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A further 7 awards were presented during the ceremony, all judged by industry experts, with winners including Radheya Jegatheva (best animation and best international film for The Quiet), Luis Gerardo LoGar (best international special mention for Damn Hobo!), Simisolaoluwa Akande (best experimental film for Dudu), Laura Marcus (best writer for The Massive F*cking Bender), Neelakshi Yadav (best documentary for Life Is a Highway) and Aneta Siurnicka (best micro short for Breath).

Recipients of the awards received prizes including cash, equipment and mentoring support, generously offered by this year’s festival partners. The awards were hosted by writer and poet Yomi Sode.

All of the winning films are available to watch for free on BFI Player until 28 February.

This year’s BFI Future Film Festival ran from 18 to 21 February and was made available for free, globally, via online platforms including BFI YouTube. Young filmmakers were offered the chance to hear from the best in the business, with special guests including Turner-Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller and the Art Department of the Award-winning BFI Film-Funded psychological horror Saint Maud (Rose Glass, 2019).

Best film

Loco (dir. Rory Wilson)

The jury selected Rory Wilson’s Loco, a film about the unspoken truth of being a train driver and one driver’s haunting experience on the tracks. This category recognises the best film made by a UK-based filmmaker aged 16 to 25, awarding the winner £1,000 and a grading package from Digital Orchard. The award is supported by the Chapman Charitable Trust.

Juror Reggie Yates said: “Loco is a remarkable film that explores important issues around suicide and mental health in a sensitive, realistic and powerful way. My fellow jurors and I were highly impressed to see such a compelling narrative executed in a thought-provoking yet respectful way. Every element of the film from the directing, acting, editing and sound design stood out to showcase what is an impressive and unique film.”

Best director

Instructions to Let Go (dir. Gustavo Gamero)

The jury selected Gustavo Gamero’s Instructions to Let Go, an intimate story of Daphne and Mafer who meet at a hotel and quickly become something more than friends. The best director award is supported by Julia and Hans Rausing, awarding the recipient £1,500.

Juror Waad Al-Kateab said: “This was a beautifully shot film that really showcased Gustavo’s brilliant directorial abilities. We felt the film did particularly well in conveying the story of a sweet and intimate relationship in an intelligent and poetic way that was both visually inviting and directorially well told. Each shot was carefully constructed to create a piece of work that was in the end a truly unique film.”

Best new talent

Music for the End of the World (dir. Emmanuel Li)

The jury selected Emmanuel Li’s Music for the End of the World, a timely film about teenage Freddie who handles the apocalypse by dancing his troubles away. The best new talent award is supported by Blackmagic Design, with the winner receiving a prize of £4,000, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and a copy of DaVinci Resolve Studio from Blackmagic Design, and ongoing mentoring support from BFI Film Academy.

Jury Chair Liz Karlsen said: “Music for the End of the World is a fun, quirky and imaginative film that merged lots of different elements of animation, music and narrative to create a brilliantly original piece of work. One of the standout points of this film was the clear direction of Emmanuel’s artistic vision that was well executed in an unusual yet well communicated way, it made it quite distinctive from anything else we’d seen throughout the festival!”

In addition to the 3 awards judged by the jury, the following competition categories have been judged by BFI and industry experts:

Best animation and best international film

The Quiet (dir. Radheya Jegatheva)

Radheya Jegatheva takes home best animation (judged by Bart Yates, BlinkInk) and best international film (judged by Timothy Blake, London School of English) for The Quiet, which follows an astronaut as he ponders the silence of space and comes upon a startling self-realisation. Radheya Jegatheva wins £2,000 prize money (combined total for both awards supported by BlinkInk and the London School of English respectively) and a mentoring package.

Best international special mention

Damn Hobo! (dir. Luis Gerardo LoGar)

The best international special mention award is supported by the London School of English, and judged by Timothy Blake, London School of English. Luis Gerardo LoGar wins £750 in prize money for Damn Hobo!, an ethereal film depicting a homeless man getting lost in Mexico City, with music as his only guide.

Best writer

The Massive F*cking Bender (dir. Laura Marcus)

The best new writer award is supported by the Chapman Charitable Trust and judged by Mike Williams, Editor in Chief of Sight & Sound. Writer, director and actor Laura Marcus wins £1,000 in prize money for The Massive F*cking Bender, which follows one girl’s response to being rejected from the university of her dreams.

Best experimental film

Dudu (dir. Simisolaoluwa Akande)

The best experimental film award is supported by Black Dog Films and judged by BFI Film Academy Young Programmers. The award goes to Simisolaoluwa Akande’s Dudu, a beautifully lyrical exploration of the issue of colourism and its effects on self-identity. Akande wins £1,000 in prize money and a mentoring package.

Best documentary

Life Is a Highway (dir. Neelakshi Yadav)

Life Is a Highway, follows the rickshaw drivers, or ‘autowalas’, of New Delhi, as they talk about the economic struggles, stigmas and socio-political issues that impact their livelihoods. The best documentary award is supported by Netflix and judged by Jonny Taylor, Original Documentaries Commissioner, Netflix; Neelakshi Yadav wins a one-year mentoring package from Taylor and Netflix.

Best micro short

Breath (dir. Aneta Siurnicka)

The best micro short award is supported by Digital Orchard and judged by Kate Rolfe, Digital Orchard. Breath questions whether breath is a moment of respite or agitation and if we should let the mind be free or fight with our thoughts; Aneta Siurnicka wins grading and mentoring packages from Digital Orchard.

This year’s festival also marked the launch of a new partnership between Julia and Hans Rausing and the BFI that will help young and diverse audiences maintain access to screen culture and education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Generous support from the trust has helped make it possible for this year’s BFI Future Film Festival to be free of charge for all attendees. The trust’s recent, transformative grant of £350,000 is helping the BFI bring its work to broader audiences across the UK and globally by enabling further transition of its programme to digital, and also offers wider and significant financial support to the BFI in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.