The BFI London Film Festival 2019 Competition sections showcase an incredibly diverse range of talent from Britain and across the world; over 60% of the films in Competition across all sections are from a female director or co-director, with 16 countries represented across the producers and co-producers.
Building on the success of last year’s new approach, placing audiences at the heart of the awards ceremony, the Competition sections seek to highlight and honour inspiring, inventive and intelligent filmmaking.
Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director said:
“Our awards highlight the most distinctive, urgent and accomplished filmmaking from around the globe and it has been an incredible Festival — with audiences moved, provoked and dazzled by these films, many of which engage with pressing social and political themes in very inventive ways.
“We are hugely grateful to our juries for their time this week in picking the award winners. I know the quality of the nominated films made many of the decisions very difficult and the juries brought a tremendous amount of passion, integrity and expertise to the deliberations.”
This year’s Jury Presidents were: WASH WESTMORELAND (Official Competition), JESSICA HAUSNER (First Feature Competition), YANCE FORD (Documentary Competition) and JACQUI DAVIES (Short Film Competition).
MONOS – Alejandro Landes, Official Competition (Best Film Award)
Alejandro Landes delivers one of the most talked-about films of the year in MONOS: a hallucinogenic, intoxicating thriller about child soldiers that has inspired feverish buzz and earned comparisons to Apocalypse Now and Lord of the Flies.
While wearing its influences on its sleeve, the film is a wildly original vision from Landes and screenwriter Alexis dos Santos; the camera prowling over mud and organic decay, cutting swathes through the jungle, all to the strains of Mica Levi’s visceral score.
Wash Westmoreland, Official Competition President said:
“Monos is a stunning cinematic achievement; marrying dynamic visuals, faultless performances and groundbreaking storytelling. It’s a masterpiece!”
The Official Competition jury also gave Special Commendations to HONEY BOY (Alma Har’el) and SAINT MAUD (Rose Glass).
Of Honey Boy, Westmoreland commented: “Its blisteringly honest performances and clear-eyed, inspired direction make this brilliant film an unforgettable experience.”
And of Saint Maud and Rose Glass, Westmoreland said: “This dazzling directorial debut marks the emergence of a powerful new voice in British cinema.”
ATLANTICS – Mati Diop, First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award)
A hypnotic, genre-shifting portrait of a girl’s awakening, ATLANTICS tells the story of Ada, who faces impending marriage to another man when her lover Souleiman grows tired of labouring without pay on the gleaming towers of Dakar, and sets out across the sea with friends. As the women gather in the bar where the men used to drink, it seems that something else more mysterious has returned to them.
Jessica Hausner, First Feature Competition President said:
“Atlantics is a film that intrigued us by its original and refreshing use of genre elements in a story that also has a strong political impact. Set in a country that is going through transition, this film dares to invent a poetic fable, mysterious and challenging.
“A crime scene that becomes a nightmarish tale, held together by a story of the endurance and persistence of young love.”
The First Feature Competition jury also gave a Special Commendation to HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD (Bora Kim).
Jessica Hausner said:
“We would also like to attribute a special commendation to House of Hummingbird, a film that surprisingly talks about the ambiguity within human relationships. Friendship, family, love – are questioned by the fact that feelings always are contradictory and change with time. A very profound insight on human existence.”
WHITE RIOT – Rubika Shah, Documentary Competition (Grierson Award)
A vital documentary blending fresh interviews with archive footage, WHITE RIOT profiles punky reggae protest movement Rock Against Racism. Chronicling the movement’s grassroots beginnings in 1976 through to 1978’s huge antifascist carnival in East London’s Victoria Park, the film features interviews and previously unseen footage of X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse and The Clash, whose rockstar charisma and gale-force conviction took Rock Against Racism’s message to the masses.
Yance Ford, Documentary Competition President commented:
“In the spirit of the Grierson Award criteria, White Riot is both a provocation and a tremendous opportunity. In this moment around the world the film implies that perhaps the lessons of the past were never learned.
“This rhetoric and politics of this moment in our history is familiar. And although language and symbols evolve, their meaning remains. Without nostalgia for 1979, the power of White Riot is that it points directly at 2019.
“Rubika Shah has used the power of film to remind us of where we have been and asks how long it will take us to change course.”
FAULT LINE (GOSAL) – Soheil Amirsharifi, Short Film Competition (Short Film Award)
In Amirsharifi’s film, Nahal is an Iranian schoolgirl who must create a new version of the truth in a strict environment, despite there being unintended consequences to her self-preservation.
Jacqui Davies, Short Film Competition President said:
“This is a film that provoked intense discussion as we continued to decode it long after watching; for its sophisticated layering of story, beautifully controlled performances and uncompromising and singular vision that provokes the audience to piece together the unseen events that motivate all of the characters’ actions.
“This subtle and unusual film manages to do something profoundly transgressive — formally and politically — whilst concealing the very things that make it so subversive. We all were desperate to watch this film again and again.”
The Short Film Competition jury also gave a Special Commendation to IF YOU KNEW (Stroma Cairns).
Davies said that the jury gave the commendation “For demonstrating real understanding of the components of film — image and sound — as it brilliantly exploits their possibilities and to produce a highly sensual and tactile experience for the audience, communicating unrepresented lives in cinema — from a filmmaker whose career we are excited to follow.”
Last year’s awards were a sell-out success when audiences were placed at the heart of the celebrations, with the winning film from each competitive section presented to the public as a surprise screening.
Once again, the Competition winners received their award on stage from Festival Director Tricia Tuttle and respective Jury Presidents in front of a public audience, at a special screening of each winning film on Saturday 12 October at Vue Leicester Square.
The winner of each Competition section was also awarded a commemorative 35 mm print of their winning film, provided by festival sponsor CPC London.
The Official Competition jury was led by acclaimed Colette and Still Alice director Wash Westmoreland, whose latest film Earthquake Bird also screened in this year’s Festival; the First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award) jury was headed up by Austrian director Jessica Hausner, whose latest film Little Joe also featured in this year’s Festival; the Oscar-nominated director of Strong Island, Yance Ford, led the jury of the Grierson Award for Best Documentary; and finally, award-winning British film producer Jacqui Davies presided over the Short Film Competition jury.
Other Jurors previously announced were: Official Competition (Best Film Award) – Jane Crowther, Hayley Squires, Sudabeh Mortezai and Mohamed Hefzy; First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award) – Shola Amoo, Theresa Ikoko and Hong Khaou; Documentary Competition (Grierson Award) – Cíntia Gil and Julia Nottingham; Short Film Competition (Short Film Award) – Amrou Al-Kadhi, Mark Jenkin, Alex Lawther and Marli Siu.