The BFI London Film Festival in Partnership with American Express® celebrates the highest creative achievements of British and international filmmakers in its Competitive sections, applauding extraordinary storytelling and inventive filmmaking across all the categories. This year’s line-up showcased the enormous depth and diversity of talent working in the global film industry today, with female directors or co-directors making up at least half of the films in Official Competition and Short Film Competition and 60% female directors in the First Feature Competition category.
This year’s Jury Presidents were: Lenny Abrahamson (Official Competition), Francis Lee (First Feature Competition), Simon Chinn (Documentary Competition) and Rungano Nyoni (Short Film Competition)
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JOY – Sudabeh Mortezai, Official Competition (Best Film Award)
Winner of both the first ever Hearst Film Award 2018 for Best Female Direction and the 2018 Europa Cinemas Label at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, Sudabeh Mortezai (whose debut feature Macondo competed for the LFF’s Sutherland Award in 2014), presents a vital and hugely affecting drama that tackles the vicious cycle of sex trafficking in modern Europe. It follows the life of Joy, a young Nigerian woman, who works the streets to pay off debts to her exploiter Madame, while supporting her family in Nigeria and hoping for a better life for her young daughter in Vienna.
Lenny Abrahamson, Official Competition President said: “JOY is a provocative and unique film offering a devastating portrait of human resilience in the most inhuman of environments. A raw, fresh view on sex trafficking with a sharp feminist perspective sewn in throughout — director Sudabeh Mortezai successfully immerses us in the women’s lives with her documentarist approach exploring the traps of abuse and extortion without ever becoming exploitative itself. A vital beautifully made film that my fellow jurors and I urge you to watch.”
The Official Competition jury also gave a Special Commendation to BIRDS OF PASSAGE — (Pájaros de Verano) directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra.
GIRL – Lukas Dhont, First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award)
Lukas Dhont’s (Headlong, Boys on Film X) feature debut was also bestowed with the coveted Camera d’Or and Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, and has been selected as the Belgian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. GIRL is the story of Lara, a transgender teenager who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer in this extraordinary coming-of-age story. Lukas Dhont’s richly empathetic and beautifully realised film sensitively explores Lara’s complex inner emotions, expressing so much even when she herself cannot quite find the words.
Francis Lee, First Feature Competition President said: “GIRL is an extraordinary coming of age story featuring a truly remarkable central performance — it is not afraid to tackle a number of difficult subject matters which are dramatically effective and fully believable. Throughout there’s a complex balance between heartbreak and hope that keeps the audience absorbed – this is an imaginative and original directorial debut and my fellow jurors and I are excited to see what director, Lukas Dhont does next”.
WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE? – Roberto Minervini, Documentary Competition (Grierson Award)
Selected for the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival, Roberto Minervini’s (The Other Side, Stop The Pounding Heart) thought-provoking and all-too-relevant documentary follows a Louisiana community during the summer of 2017, in the aftermath of a string of brutal police shootings of black men that sent shockwaves throughout the country. A meditation on the state of race in America, this film is an intimate portrait of the lives of those who struggle for justice, dignity, and survival in a country not on their side.
Simon Chinn, Documentary Competition President commented: “A truly thought-provoking and all too urgent documentary — through stunning and unflinching black and white frames we’re offered a raw and emotional snapshot of African-American life in the Deep South in the aftermath of a police shooting. It reveals, with both intimacy and empathy, the lives of those still fighting for dignity and respect at a time of enduring racial division and injustice nearly 6 decades after the birth of the civil rights movement. The powerful and subtle storytelling made the film a unanimous winner for the Jury.”
LASTING MARKS – Charlie Lyne, Short Film Competition (Short Film Award)
Charlie Lyne’s short documentary (Beyond Clueless, Fear Itself) charts the story of sixteen men put on trial for sadomasochism in the dying days of Thatcher’s Britain. Men with shared sexual desires, lucky to have found each other, yet unfortunate to be considered criminal for expressing them.
Rungano Nyoni, Short Film Competition President stated: “In a strong and diverse Shorts selection, Charlie Lyne’s LASTING MARKS fascinated us all by resurrecting forgotten history. Uniquely presented as a slideshow of court documents and organised via an oral history by the prosecuted Roland Jaggard, Lyne recounts the story of a group of men put on trial for sadomasochism in the 1980s. A must watch.”
For the first time this year, the winners were revealed in front of a public audience on Saturday, October 20 at Vue Leicester Square. The Best Film, Sutherland and Grierson Award-winning films were presented as surprise screenings, and all presentations of the Festival’s official award, the bronze Star of London, were made on stage, by Artistic Director Tricia Tuttle and the President of each Jury to the winning filmmaker. This placed packed audiences at the centre of the awards celebration, encouraging them to experiment and see the winning films as a surprise.