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Round-Up of the 66th BFI London Film Festival
by Christine Riney

The BFI London Film Festival was a treat for all senses and provided a breadth of experiences that took me back to the pre-pandemic days of excitement. There were 167 feature films, 8 series, and 20 immersive works. With 23 world premieres, 7 international premieres, and 22 European premieres that came to us from 63 countries from around the world. The audience numbers were great, with over 290,000 people attending in person and online. Looks like we are all back to the movies!

The Winners:

Best Film: CORSAGE – Marie Kreutze

The jury said “a masterfully realized film CORSAGE, its mesmerizing and original interpretation of the life of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth. The jury was completely seduced by Vicky Krieps’ sublime performance of a woman out of time trapped in her own iconography and her rebellious yearning for liberation.”

This is a dark comedy that keeps you rooting for Elisabeth from the beginning to the final scenes. Turning 40 years old and fighting to find the joy and purpose of her youth, can we all sympathize? Watch out for more performances from Vicky Krieps, she is in demand.

First Feature Competition: 1976 – Manuela Martelli

The jury said: “a captivating work, 1976 is a historic film that is chillingly relevant to our time. Spouses, friends and neighbours become softly radicalised under the threat of violence and an increasing atmosphere of paranoia. It is a remarkable debut, original and imaginative in its symbolism, attention to detail, and profound performances.”

Set in Argentina under the brutal rule of Pinochet. Carmen, while at her holiday home finds herself caught up in plots to overthrow the government. As Carmen’s compassion leads her to embrace the local's plans, we are entranced by her fear of what her involvement means. She has stepped outside the boundaries of her social and political set. Can she go back? Will she? This film needs little dialogue as the suspense comes from the actors and their interactions. 1976 is a captivating thriller.

Documentary Competition: ALL THAT BREATHES – Shaunak Sen

The jury said, “a film that through an intimate lens reveals the beauty of kinship and the struggle for survival in a time of increasing social and environmental collapse.”

Nadeem and Saud rescue injured kites and vultures in pollution-ravaged Delhi – considered impure because they eat carrion. The need to love and care for all things is a key takeaway from the work undertaken by these two caring souls. Makes you think about every living creature's right to compassion.

Immersive Art and XR Award: AS MINE EXACTLY – Charlie Shackleton

The jury said: “a work that, with its blend of performance and virtual reality, creates an extraordinary level of intimacy. Charlie’s piece is a showcase in love and empathy that all jurors were deeply moved by.”

Shackleton shares original footage and images from his childhood while narrating live to share his very personal story with every visitor. Unfortunately, I didn't make this screening experience.

Short Film Award: I HAVE NO LEGS, AND I MUST RUN – Yue Li

The jury said: “a hugely cinematic and fully formed short which felt accomplished in every facet of its filmmaking. This film captivated us with its gripping soundtrack and left us all wanting more.”

A sprinter faces the inevitable decline of his body due to age. The powerful soundtrack takes us to the place where a younger, eager, and faster runner is making his way to the finish line. We all find ourselves facing limits where we didn’t find them before.

Until next year enjoy your next films!