The official competition selection for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival has been announced, and the line-up looks amazing. This year’s line-up showcases the vast diversity of talent working in the global film industry today, with a record 50% of the films from a female director or co-director (finally, a 50/50 split, something that is very overdue). So what are the ten films that are in the competition, I hear you ask? Well, without any further ado, we are going to give you a brief description of the ten films and discuss our anticipation for each:
Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) dirs. Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerr
This crime film is Set in the 1970s, and film chronicles a Wayuu family’s rise and fall during the early days of illegal drug trading in Colombia. Often with the crime genre it is male dominated, however with Birds of Passage there is matriarch in the form of Ursula Pushaina (played by Carmiña Martínez) who is said to emerge as the film’s strongest character. The film is made up of five discrete chapters over two-decades and is full of violence, action and drama. This epic tragedy begins from a place of naive innocence and builds to a full-blown war between two rival factions. This sounds like a must-see for fans of Breaking Bad and Goodfellas. We are excited about this film especially because it is Colombia’s submission to the Foreign Language Film Award of the 91st Oscars, but will it be a winner at the BFI LFF?
Happy as Lazzaro (Lazzaro felice) dir. Alice Rohrwacher
Lazzaro, is a young peasant who is so good that he is often mistaken for simple-minded, and Tancredi, a young nobleman cursed by his imagination. Life in their isolated pastoral village Inviolata is dominated by the terrible Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna, the queen of cigarettes. A loyal bond is sealed when Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping. Italian film director Alice Rohrwacher received a Cannes Grand Prix award for her previous film, The Wonders, so there is a high chance that her latest film could walk away with the prize here. With critics like Gwilym Mumford calling Happy as Lazzaro a “beguiling fable of golden, rural Italy trampled by modernity” this is very much our cup of tea, and we are very excited about catching this film at this year’s London Film Festival.
Destroyer dir. Karyn Kusama
Another crime film, this time starring the wonderfully talented Nicole Kidman who plays LAPD detective Erin Bell. As a young cop, Bell was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges many years later, she must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally reckon with the demons that destroyed her past. Kidman looks unrecognisable after her physical transformation in this film, and it’s quite possible that she could secure a best actress nomination at the Oscars. Director Karyn Kusama told Variety that they wanted the character to look like she’d had a hard life.”We always knew that what we wanted her to look like was a real middle-aged woman with a past that she wears on her face.” We are looking forward to this film for Kidman’s performance alone.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead. dir. Ben Wheatley
Ben Wheatley’s latest film is really appealing to us. The film follows Colin (Neil Maskell) who hires a lavish country manor for his extended family to celebrate New Year. Unfortunately for Colin his position of power in the family is under serious threat from the arrival of his estranged brother David. Over the past few years, Ben Wheatley has proven himself to be one of the most exciting directors working in the British film industry. His latest film is a bit of a departure for Wheatley, who has mostly dabbled in thrillers, horror movies, and action comedies. We are huge fans of Wheatley work so we will be keen to catch this film, but will it appeal to the judges of the BFI London Festival?
In Fabric dir. Peter Strickland
Now, this is right up my street. In Fabric is a haunting ghost story set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a department store, following the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences. Strickland directed erotic drama The Duke of Burgundy (2014) and psychological horror Berberian Sound Studio (2012), both films being instant cult classics so we are very keen to see his latest films. In Fabric‘s cast includes Gwendoline Christie, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Steve Oram. We are very hyped about this film, especially with Rose Garnett, director of BBC Films, stating the following: “Peter has written an intense and haunting script filled with chilling moments and twists along the way.” But, will horror be a hit with the judges?
The Old Man & the Gun dir. David Lowery
Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker and his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heist that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Written and directed by David Lowery (A Ghost Story) and starring the likes of Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover and Tom Waits, this film sounds like an appealing crime/heist story with a twist on the genre. The biggest question is whether Redford will return after this film, but we are sure that this film will be a delight and will showcase Redford’s talent. True crime dramas are always a delight to watch but is it award worthy? Or will the judges commit the ultimate crime and ignore it?
Shadow (Ying) dir. Zhang Yimou
Set during China’s Three Kingdom’s era (AD 220-280), this is a story of a great king and his people, who are expelled from their homeland. The king is violent and ambitious; his general, is a visionary and t he women of the palace, who struggle to find redemption in a world where they have no place. This material arts epic is a co-venture between Village Roadshow Pictures Asia and Le Vision Pictures, for which Zhang is retained as an artistic consultant. The film’s cast consists of Deng Chan, Hu Jun, Li Su and Ryan Zheng. Judging from the film’s beautiful posters, this is going to be a visual delight, and I am sure that some judges will be wowed by this visual spectacle.
Joy dir. Sudabeh Mortezai
Joy is a film about a young Nigerian woman who is caught in the vicious cycle of sex trafficking. She 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 little daughter in Vienna. Joy struggles to understand her role in this merciless system of exploitation when she is instructed by Madame to supervise Precious, a teenage girl fresh from Nigeria who is not ready to accept her fate. This is Mortezai fourth feature film, and we are keen to check Joy out. It sounds like a very relevant film that has an important story to tell. I have a feeling that Joy will appeal the judges, and we are keen to see it.
Sunset (Napszállta) dir. László Nemes
Sunset is an upcoming Hungarian film directed by László Nemes and co-written by Nemes, Clara Royer and Matthieu Taponier. Set in 1913, Budapest, Irisz Leiter arrives in the Hungarian capital with high hopes to work as a milliner at the legendary hat store that belonged to her late parents. She is nonetheless sent away by the new owner, Oszkár Brill. Refusing to leave the city, the young woman follows Kálmán’s tracks, her only link to a lost past. Her quest brings her through the dark streets of Budapest. The film received €5 million from the Hungarian National Film Fund with Juli Jakab, the young protagonist of the film, being chosen among more than 1,000 Hungarian actresses. As lovers of World Cinema, this film ticks all the right boxes.
Too Late to Die Young (Tarde para morir joven) dir. Dominga Sotomayor
Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor returns to an exploration of childhood with Too Late to Die Young. The film has been inspired by the director’s experiences growing up in the community of Peñalolén. Too Late to Die Young follows 16-year-old Sofia (Demian Hernández) who lives with her uncommunicative father (Andrés Aliaga) but plans to move in with her musician mother in the city after New Year’s; until then she bids her time smoking and flirting with Ignacio (Matías Oviedo), one of the adults who visits the community from time to time. With Sotomayor fastly emerging as one of South America’s hottest new talents, this is a film that needs to be seen. Hopefully it will appeal to the judges as well.
So, there we go! Those are the ten films in competition. Which one do you think will win and which one are you most eager to see? Let us know in the comments below.