8th October 2017 6.00pm at Picturehouse Central
10th October 2017 3.15pm at Vue West End
14th October 2017 12.45pm at Hackney Picturehouse
We’ve all encountered them, through open doors that inevitably close. They’re seen as an irritation, something to disrupt the convenience of one’s day. The Jehovah’s Witnesses. But in the debut film from British director Daniel Kokotajlo, the viewer is given a deep and human insight into the people knocking on their doors.
Based on Kokotajlo’s own experiences in the church, Apostasy follows a family of devoted members in Manchester. When the eldest daughter, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson), falls pregnant, she is forced out of the church and out of the family. Her mother Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) and younger sister Alex (Molly Wright) learn to live without her, but harbour their own secret doubts about the faith.
When it comes to religion, movies find it difficult to be in the middle. It’s either religious propaganda, ousting atheists, or more secular with two-dimensional religious characters. Apostasy leans toward the latter, but with more empathy. Kokotajlo makes the audience sympathise with unreasonably dogmatic characters, forcing the viewer to understand them, despite their harsh views. At brief and beautiful moments, Ivanna and Alex talk towards the audience, frozen in time, and air the inner thoughts they dare not speak out loud.
There are moments when exposition is pushed to its limits. The dialogue is crammed full of quotes from scripture as well as specific teachings in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Various scenes are also prefaced by title cards using Bible quotes. However, this is often necessary. The absurd rules and punishments have to be explained somehow and it also captures the ubiquity of religion in the lives of the characters.
Apostasy is a critical and emotional look at the dangers of dogma and how it can rip people’s lives apart. All the performances possess a heartbreaking naturalism wrapped around a surreal, robotic obedience – particularly from Siobhan Finneran. It’s important to know that Kokotajlo isn’t trying to dismantle religion, only the harsh authoritarian system that works inside it – teaching that the removal of humanity from humans is a moral sin in itself, religious or otherwise.
Apostasy does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.