The 15th 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, announced online and in person at BFI Southbank. Talented young filmmakers aged 16 to 25 that took home prizes include Adekemi Roluga (Best New Talent for Exhale), Florence Winter Hill (Best Film for The Gospel According to Gail) and Will Wightman (Best Director for Heart Failure).
These three awards were judged by our esteemed festival jury, led by Mark Herbert (Warp Films), who announced their choices at tonight’s ceremony. Herbert was joined on the jury by actor Nicola Coughlan (Bridgerton, Derry Girls), filmmaker and actor Aml Ameen (Boxing Day, Yardie), director Runyararo Mapfumo (Sex Education) and documentary filmmaker Kyla Harris (It’s Personal).
A further seven awards were presented during the ceremony, all judged by industry experts, with winners including Georgia Madden (Best Animation for Divination Dave), Bradley Banton (Best Experimental Film for Blackmael), Lucy Werrett (Best Documentary for Homebound), Katie Byford (Best Writer for You Look Fine), Christina Giordano (Best Micro Short for Stolen.), Spencer Glassman (Best International Special Mention for This Time with Feeling) and Evan Kerbage (Best International Film for Mirrored Family). 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 film critic Rhianna Dhillon.
This year’s BFI Future Film Festival ran from 17 to 20 February and was presented in a hybrid format with two distinct festival programmes: one series of free events taking place online for a global audience and a second series of events taking place in person at BFI Southbank.
Young filmmakers were offered the chance to hear from the best in the business, with special guests including actor and director Craig Roberts (The Phantom of the Open, 2021), actor and director Romola Garai (Amulet, 2020), actor and director Rebecca Hall (Passing, 2021), actor Callum Scott Howell (It’s a Sin, 2021) and Domee Shi, whose work includes new Pixar feature Turning Red (2022).
Further appearances included writer, director and BFI Future Film Festival alumni Nida Manzoor, whose recent work includes We Are Lady Parts (Channel 4, 2021); one of the breakout stars of Rocks (Sarah Gavron, 2019), the BAFTA Rising Star Award-winner Bukky Bakray; Joy Gharoro- Akpojotor, producer of Blue Story (Rapman, 2019) and Boxing Day (Aml Ameen, 2021), and Ameenah Allen, producer of Rocks and co-producer of Ali & Ava (Clio Barnard, 2021).
Best New Talent
Exhale (dir. Adekemi Roluga)
The jury selected Adekemi Roluga’s Exhale, a film that explores the mental and emotional impact of racial micro-aggressions and follows six individuals who differ in age, gender, and location, but are united by a shared experience. The Best New Talent Award is supported by Blackmagic Design, with the winner receiving a prize of £4,000, a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and a copy of DaVinci Resolve Studio from Blackmagic Design.
Collectively the jury said of the film: “Exhale is an incredibly thought-provoking film from a young director with a clear vision, a unique voice and plenty of potential. We loved the intimacy of the personal stories in the film, but also appreciated the use of sound and lighting to build a spectacular cinematic world with limited resources – really well done!”
The Gospel According to Gail (dir. Florence Winter Hill)
The jury selected Florence Winter Hill’s The Gospel According to Gail, a film that follows 17-year-old Mia (played by Rocks’ Bukky Bakray), who just wants to live life in the fast lane, but learning to drive with Gail is so much more than a driving lesson, it’s a life lesson. This category recognises the Best Film made by a UK-based filmmaker aged 16 to 25, awarding the winner £1,000. The award is supported by the Chapman Charitable Trust.
Collectively the jury said of the film: “The Gospel According to Gail really charmed the jury team. It’s an incredibly competently crafted film – everything about it is exceptional, from sound to production design. We thought the filmmaker demonstrated great storytelling skills – it was a masterfully directed piece, with phenomenal use of dialogue and comedic timing combined with charming performances and a great dynamic between characters. It reminded us of Happy Go Lucky by Mike Leigh – congratulations!”
Heart Failure (dir. Will Wightman)
The jury selected Will Wightman’s Heart Failure, a musical, but not as you know it, which follows Frank and his relationship with Lizzie. From the one-night stand where they meet, to the day she tells him she loves him; from the week she ignores his texts, to the moment she says they need to talk. The Best Director award winner receives £1,000.
Collectively the jury said of Heart Failure: “The entire jury team laughed out loud watching Heart Failure. It’s a perfectly crafted, incredibly smart short film. The filmmaker expertly uses comedy and performances to instantly grab the audience. The transitions between dialogue and music are very hard to pull off in a musical and this director absolutely nails it. The film felt incredibly authentic and the director’s personality really shone through. Heart Failure reminded most of us of what being a teenager in early 2000s felt like. We cannot wait to see what this director does next!”
In addition to the three awards judged by the jury, the following competition categories have been judged by BFI and industry experts:
Divination Dave (dir. Georgia Madden)
The Best Animation Award is supported by BlinkInk and judged by Bart Yates, BlinkInk. Georgia Madden wins £1,000 + a mentoring package for Divination Dave, a story about a crisp loving couch potato who finds himself on a journey of accidental enlightenment when his favourite flavour of salty crisps runs out.
Best International Film
Mirrored Family (dir. Evan Kerbage)
The Best International award is supported by the London School of English and judged by Timothy Blake, London School of English. Evan Kerbage wins £1,000 for Mirrored Family, an insightful piece that offers a glimpse into the developing relationships of five family members in isolation during the first Covid lockdown.
Best International Special Mention
This Time with Feeling (dir. Spencer Glassman)
The Best International Special Mention award is also supported by the London School of English, and judged by Timothy Blake, London School of English. Spencer Glassman wins £750 in prize money for This Time with Feeling, a tale of desperation as budding actress Edith launches into a spiral of self-doubt after heart-breaking rejections.
You Look Fine (dir. Katie Byford)
The Best New Writer award is supported by the Chapman Charitable Trust and judged by Mike Williams, editor in chief of Sight and Sound. Katie Byford wins £1,000 in prize money for You Look Fine, which follows Syd as she attends a doctor’s appointment while coping with PTSD symptoms, following a recent incident of sexual assault.
Best Experimental Film
Blackmael (Dir. Bradley Banton)
The Best Experimental Film Award is supported by Black Dog Films and judged by Martin Roker, Black Dog Films. The award goes to Bradley Banton’s Blackmael, a thought-provoking piece on assimilation and an extension of self-preservation – a social tactic familiar to Black people yet far from exclusive to the Black experience. Banton wins £1,000 in prize money and a mentoring package.
Homebound (Dir. Lucy Werrett)
Homebound takes a retrospective look at the collective mental shifts that occurred in the first UK lockdown; narrated by a patchwork quilt of anonymous voices, self-recorded from within their isolation. The Best Documentary Award is supported by Netflix and judged by Jonny Taylor, director, Documentary Film – EMEA at Netflix. Lucy Werrett wins £1,000 and a one-year mentoring package from Taylor and Netflix.
Best Micro Short
Stolen. (Dir. Christina Giordano)
The Best Micro Short Award is supported by Digital Orchard and judged by their executive team. Stolen. brings you on a journey from who and where stolen items could have gone. Christina Giordano wins grading and mentoring packages from Digital Orchard.
All of the 50 short films by emerging filmmakers aged 16 to 25 will be available to watch for free on BFI Player until 3 March (UK only).
The festival would not be possible without the continued support of The Reuben Foundation, which is the lead supporter of the BFI’s year-round education programmes, including monthly BFI Film Academy Labs and the BFI Future Film Festival.