Keen British cinema watchers have seen an extraordinary last 12 months with the emergence of an electrifying new generation of filmmakers delivering impressive debuts such as The Levelling, Lady Macbeth, God’s Own Country. This year’s BFI London Film Festival shows that UK new wave to have true strength in depth with a knock-out trio of films competing for the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature and the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmakers Bursary Award: Rungano Nyoni’s wildly visionary I Am Not A Witch; Michael Pearce intense, compulsive psychological thriller Beast; and Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy, which premieres at Picturehouse Central on Saturday 7 October.
Apostasy is a remarkable story set in the UK Jehovah’s Witness community in Oldham. Based on the director’s own experience growing up, it features a tremendous, heart-wrenching central performance from Siobhan Finneran as a woman forced to choose between adherence to her faith and her own daughters’ ‘worldly’ well-being.
Also competing for the strongly contested Sutherland Award is Ofir Raul Graizer’s The Cakemaker at Central on Friday 6 July. A moving and confident debut drama about the strange nature of grief and desire, this sees a gay German baker and an Israeli widow find mutual comfort mourning for their shared lover. Israeli actress Sarah Adler is wonderful as the widow and also stars in the exceptional LFF Debate Gala, Foxtrot, at Embankment Gardens Cinema.
Another dazzling and often breathtaking performance comes from Danish actress, Trine Dyrholm, who is compulsively watchable as Nico – the Velvet Underground muse and chanteuse in Nico, 1988. Susanna Nichiarelli’s biopic about the later years in Nico’s life (dwelling in Manchester, as it happens) looks at her fierce and uncompromising commitment to her art. Trine delivers her own vocal tracks in several searing performances that will make your hair stand on end and send you scrambling for Nico’s records. This nabbed the best film prize in Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti section and screens at Central on Saturday 14 October.
All the talk will be about Chloe Zhao’s The Rider in the coming year and you can see it first on 12 October. In a four-star review in the Guardian that references Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx, Peter Bradshaw sings the film’s praises and it’s hard to disagree. Part modern American Western, part docu-realist drama about a young working class rodeo rider struggling to find his way, this is top-notch filmmaking and gorgeously shot by Brit Joshua James Richards (who incidentally shot God’s Own Country).
Documentary, horror and Hitchcock lovers alike will find intense pleasure in 78/52, Alexandre O. Philippe’s thoroughly entertaining examination of what is arguably narrative filmmaking’s most famous three minutes: Psycho’s shower scene. Featuring a delicious range of funny, informative contributions from super-fans and experts (like Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eli Roth and Elijah Wood), Phillipe forensically dissects that classic game-changing scene. Amongst its other accomplishments, this three minutes defines the sadistic and cathartic pleasures of horror and the complex relationship between viewer and viewed, all 78 camera set ups and 52 shots of it.
243 features. 67 countries. 15 cinemas. 12 days. One Festival. The annual feast of cinematic delights is fast approaching. Tickets are now on general sale for the BFI London Film Festival, 4-15 October.
Picturehouse Central and Hackney Picturehouse are among the venues as the city welcomes galas, special presentations and film premieres of the best new films from all over the world.