The 60th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® announced this year’s Festival Awards’ winners at its high profile Awards dinner, at Banqueting House, Whitehall, last night. Hosted by Michael Sheen and with an address from BFI Chair Josh Berger, guests included Abi Morgan, Alicia Vikander, Anna Friel, Anthony Chen, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Bola Agbaje, David Dehaney, David Nicholls, David Tennant, Edmund Coulthard, Florence Pugh, George Amponsah, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Guy Lodge, John Maclean, Kerry Fox, Lily James, Louise Osmond, Matthew Macfadyen, Oli Hyatt, Radu Jude, Sarah Gavron, Sara Ishaq, Sean McAllister and Michael Fassbender, who presented the BFI Fellowship to this year’s recipient Steve McQueen.
OFFICIAL COMPETITION WINNER – BEST FILM: Certain Women, directed by Kelly Reichardt
Recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, the winner of the Best Film Award, went to Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, the impeccable study of the lives of three very different women in Montana. The award was announced by President of the Official Competition jury, Athina Rachel Tsangari, whose film Chevalier won the LFF Best Film prize in 2015.
The film jury said “In a vibrant year for cinema it was the masterful mise en scène and quiet modesty of this film that determined our choice for Best film. A humane and poignant story that calibrates with startling vulnerability and delicate understatement the isolation, frustrations and loneliness of lives unlived in a quiet corner of rural America”.
Tsangari’s fellow jurors were multi BAFTA-winning British screenwriter Abi Morgan whose credits include Shame, The Iron Lady, & Birdsong, the Primetime Emmy-winning The Hour and whose Suffragette opened the 2015 LFF; Anthony Chen, the Singaporean writer, director, producer who collected the Festival’s Sutherland Prize in 2013 for Ilo Ilo; Gugu Mbatha-Raw, British star of Belle who appeared in an episode of Black Mirror which screened as part of the Festival’s LFF CONNECTS programme and Radu Jude, the Silver Bear-winning Romanian director and screenwriter (Aferim! 2015) whose Scarred Hearts screened in this year’s Festival.
FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION WINNER – THE SUTHERLAND AWARD: Julia Ducournau for Raw
The long-standing Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival, and this year’s winner is Julia Ducournau for Raw, about a young woman’s insatiable appetite for flesh in a playful coming-of-age body horror tale. The winner was announced by the jury president, and BAFTA-winning Sarah Gavron, director of last year’s Suffragette.
About Raw, Sarah Gavron said “It is a film that shocked and surprised us in equal measure. We admired the way the director did something completely unexpected with the genre. We enjoyed the outrageousness of the story-telling, and the glee with which events unfolded. We loved the eerie originality of the setting, the dark, dark humour, the great score and the truly distinctive visual language. And the bold charismatic acting of the women at the centre of a film that is both unique and unsettling and will quite literally make some swoon”.
The jury also gave a special commendation to Uda Benyamina‘s Divines for its standout female performance from Oulaya Amamra and for its great energy and veracity.
Sarah Gavron’s fellow jurors were novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls (Far from the Madding Crowd, One Day); director and producer George Amponsah who’s film The Hard Stop featured in the Debate strand last year (LFF 2015); chief UK film critic for Variety Guy Lodge; British actor Matthew Macfadyen (Anna Karenina, Frost/Nixon); and Nira Park, the BAFTA-nominated British producer of Spaced and the celebrated Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.
DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION WINNER – THE GRIERSON AWARD: Starless Dreams directed, produced and written by Mehrdad Oskouei
The Grierson Award for the best documentary recognises outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. The award went to Starless Dreams, a thoughtful and complex portrait of juvenile delinquent women at the extreme margins of Iranian society, by veteran documentarian Mehrdad Oskouei. Announcing the winner was Jury President and Grierson, RTS and International Emmy-winner Louise Osmond
Louise Osmond commented “Starless Dreams is the story of young women in a juvenile detention centre in Iran. By that description you’d imagine a dark film exploring a bleak world of broken young lives. This film was the very opposite of that. It took us into a world none of us knew anything about – the street kids, thieves and children of crack addicts of Iran – and showed us a place full of humour, life and spirit. Beautifully paced with great characterisation and a very strong sense of place, director Mehrdad Oskouei captured the fears and friendships of these teenagers with such humanity. The profoundly moving irony of the film is that it was in this detention centre, with others like them, that these girls finally found a sense of family and home; you feared for them most the day they were released back into their family’s care. It’s a film that stays with you for a very long time”.
Joining Louise Osmond on the jury were the factual producer and director David Dehaney; producer, director and writer Edmund Coulthard whose credits include McQueen and I and Hunger; the Vice Chairman of the Grierson Trust Sanjay Singhal and the director, producer and cinematographer Sian Mcallister, whose documentary feature debut A Syrian Love Story was BAFTA-nominated.
SHORT FILM COMPETITION WINNER – BEST SHORT FILM AWARD: 9 days – From my window in Aleppo, directed by Issa Touma, Thomas Vroege and Floor van de Muelen
This year marked the second year of presenting the Best Short Film Award which recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and confident handling of chosen theme and content. The award went to 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo. The award was presented by John Maclean.
Jury president and Academy-Award®-winner, Mat Kirkby said “When Syrian photographer Issa Touma decided to pick up his camera and film events from his window in Aleppo, he did not know whether he would be alive to finish the filming. Not only does his documentary show what one person, one camera and a restricted view of an alleyway can do to reveal something as complex, confusing, and terrifying as a civil war, but also it demonstrates the power of film to reach the wider world, and make those of us more fortunate re-assess the freedom we take for granted.”
Kirkby’s fellow jurors comprised award-winning playwright and screenwriter Bola Agbaje; director-screenwriter, former Screen Star of Tomorrow and John Maclean who won a BAFTA for Pitch Black Heist (2011), and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Slow West in 2015; the ICA’s Cinema and Film Programme Manager, Nico Manzano; co-founder of Blue Zoo Animation Studio, Oli Hyatt and the writer, director and Academy Award® nominee Sara Ishaq (Karam Has No Walls, 2012).
BFI FELLOWSHIP Steve McQueen (as previously announced)
This year’s BFI Fellowship was presented to the visionary Turner-prize-winning video artist, and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen by his frequent collaborator Michael Fassbender. McQueen was accompanied by his producer wife Bianca Stigter and close family and friends to celebrate his receiving the highest accolade the BFI Board of Governors can bestow.