Loveless wins best film at London Film Festival Awards 2017: A chat with the winners at the ceremony
The 61st BFI London Film Festival announced this year’s festival award winners at Banqueting House, Whitehall. Hosted by James Nesbitt and with an address from BFI chair Josh Berger, guests included Andrea Arnold, Hayley Atwell, Eric Bana, Jessie Buckley, Lily Cole, Jason Isaacs, Adrian Lester, Helen McCrory, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor Joy and this year’s BFI Fellowship recipient, Paul Greengrass.
Best film: Loveless by Andrey Zvaginstev
Recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, the best film award went to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, a powerful and eloquent film about a divorcing Russian couple whose son disappears. The award was announced by the president of the Official Competition jury, director Andrea Arnold. The jury commented: “We felt that Loveless was a very poetic and beautiful film. Dark and told with a fierce passion. Although the film concentrated on the intimate story of one family in Russia, it felt like a universal tragedy; one that we recognized as one of the world¹s great sadnesses. The film-maker elevated the personal to a social and political statement. A critique of our current psychological and political moment. Some of us felt the film a cautionary tale. An angry warning. And some of us saw it as a rallying call for the opposite of what the film is called.
“We also commend Wajib. We found this to be a very honest, tender and beautifully acted story about a father and son delivering wedding invitations to their relatives. Sometimes funny and often sad we loved the glimpse into the lives of ordinary Christian Arabs in Nazareth. And through the intimacy between father and son, the film explored the clash of old and new in a fast changing world. A call for patience, respect and understanding”.
Arnold’s fellow jurors were the BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Babak Anvari; the actor Eric Bana whose latest film The Forgiven premiered at this year’s LFF; Ashley Clark, senior programmer of cinema at BAM Brooklyn; actor and social entrepreneur Lily Cole; previous LFF Best Film winner, the writer and director Alexei Popogrebsky and the BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated producer Emma Thomas.
This is the second time that Andrey Zvyagintsev has won the Best Film at BFI London Film Festival having previously received the award for Leviathan in 2014 which subsequently went on to win the Golden Globe for best foreign language film and was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA in the same category. We had the chance to speak the director ahead of his film’s screening.
Best first feature: The Wound by John Trengove
The long-standing Sutherland Award is named after the first Chairman of the British Film Institute, George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower. The Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival, and this year’s winner is John Trengove for The Wound, a powerful exploration of masculinity and unspoken queer desire set in the remote mountains of South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The winner was announced by the jury president, composer and producer, Melissa Parmenter. The jury said: “Among a strong field of debut features, we found ourselves enamoured by the urgency, vitality and originality of The Wound. Director John Trengove and his terrific cast have created a dynamic and inimitable coming-of-age story that takes a heart-breaking look at masculinity and sexuality. We would also like to give a special mention to the dreamlike Summer 1993, a beautiful and personal film, impressively and sensitively crafted. Its director and screenwriter Carla Simón is an exciting emerging filmmaker to watch”.
Parmenter’s fellow jurors were freelance film writer and editor Kaleem Aftab; the multi-award-winning actors Jason Isaacs and Helen McCrory and the filmmaker and Turner Prize-nominated artist Isaac Julien CBE. We had a chance to speak with the winner and some of the jurors before the ceremony.
Best documentary: Kingdom of Us by Lucy Cohen
The Grierson Award for the best documentary recognises outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. Lucy Cohen’s documentary feature debut is a luminous exploration of grief, identity, family bonds and emotional recovery.. The award was presented by the jury president, the BAFTA & Academy Award-winning documentary producer, John Battsek. Director Cohen talked with us about the work behind her film.
On behalf of the jury, Battsek said: “In a strong and diverse documentary selection, Lucy Cohen’s impressive debut Kingdom of Us equally fascinated and moved us all. It captures an extraordinary level of family intimacy in its delicate exploration of grief and memory. We would like to specially commend the poignant yet beautiful Makala, which examines third world poverty in a simple and unflinching way, and also the thoroughly enjoyable, charming, inventive hybrid Before Summer Ends – this French road trip with three expat Iranians really touched and delighted the jury”.
Joining Battsek on the jury this year were BAFTA and Grierson-winning editor and producer Paul Dosaj; creative director of UK Factual at Raw TV Liesel Evans; multi-award-winning directors Edward Lovelace and James Hall and the highly-accoladed documentary veteran Norma Percy.
Best short film: The Rabbit Hunt by Patrick Bresnan
The short film award is now in its third year at the festival, and recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. Patrick Bresnan’s documentary short film The Rubbit Hunt follows a family hunting rabbits in the sugarcane fields of the Florida Everglades during the harvest season. The short film award was presented by jury President, the Academy Award and BAFTA-winning animation director and illustrator, Michael Dudok de Wit. We had the opportunity to talk with the director about his work.
Of the winning film, Dudok de Wit and his jury commented: “We were unanimously impressed by Patrick Bresnan’s verité documentary The Rabbit Hunt. The film is a thrilling look at one family’s otherwise everyday hustle, and is proof that farm-to-table eating doesn’t have to be a bourgeoisie exercise. We admired its agility, its confidence and its refusal to judge its enterprising subjects, and are excited to see what Bresnan does next.
“We are also giving a special mention to Scaffold, for its assured simplicity and economy of storytelling; Martin Cries (Martin Pleure), for its inventiveness in transforming the ultraviolent video game Grand Theft Auto V into a tone poem about loneliness; and to Deborah Zebeda, for her magnetic performance in Laws of the Game”.
Joining Dudok de Wit on the jury were film critic and culture writer, Simran Hans; BAFTA-winning producer Afolabi Kuti; one of the former BAFTA Brits to Watch and director of the acclaimed feature debut Lady Macbeth, William Oldroyd and actor Chloe Pirrie, a former BAFTA breakthrough awardee and Screen Star of Tomorrow.
Ahead of the ceremony we had a chance to speak with directors Warwick Thornton, Michael Pearce, and Ana Asensio, and producer Tim Bevan.
Videos: Marta Starczynowska/Filippo L’Astorina
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the official BFI website here.