October 21 2016
Did the 60th British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival (October 5-16) finish with a flourish? What were the highlights? Finally, we got on the red carpet in our home city…
NEARLY 250 films screened at this year’s London Film Festival (LFF) and audience numbers went up to a record-breaking 184,700 – up by 18 per cent on last year.
Steve McQueen, the director of “12 Years A Slave”, was awarded the BFI’s most prestigious award – the BFI Fellowship, for his outstanding contribution to film culture.
He was given the award by actor Michael Fassbinder at a ceremony on Saturday (October 15).
Other awards went to Kelly Reichardt for “Certain Women” for best film; Julia Docournau’s “Raw” picked up the Sutherland Award for best first feature; Issa Touma, Thomas Vroege and Floor van de Meulen took the best short for “9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo”.
Mehrdad Oskoeui was also presented with the Grierson Award in the documentary competition strand for “Starless Dreams”.
In that category was also the Indian “An Insignificant Man”, a documentary about the new political leader Arvind Kejriwal who runs the Aam Aadami Party.
We will be taking a closer look at this work soon and Suman Bhuchar interviewed the talents behind the film, Khushboo Rana and Vinay Shukla.
We also have reviews of the other South Asian films which screened this year at #LFF.
Our heart always laments the dearth of British Asian films and filmmakers at the London Festival Film.
There was at least “City of Tiny Lights” with Riz Ahmed playing a modern private investigator and duelling with his on-screen father Roshan Seth – always good value. Along with Billie Piper, the three give the film a really solid dimension and play out a believable and really interesting love story – more in our reviews page on that.
Of the Indian films, “Mirzya” got a Love Strand Gala screening at new temporary cinema in Embankment Gardens.
We were on the red carpet to interview debutant stars, Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher and director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
That trio were joined by two other members of the famous Kapoor family (please see video below).
Harshvardhan’s sister Sonam, well known for Cannes red carpet appearances (and our video interviews) came in support, as did father, Anil, who was so memorably the host in the “Slumdog Millionaire” version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”.
Away from that glitzy affair (some saying more style than substance about the film), there were enjoyable features in “You are my Sunday” and “A Billion Colour Story”.
Practically the whole main cast came to London from the “You are my Sunday” film (please see the video below). It was great to meet them, if only to see and hear what Barun Sobti (Arjun in the film) looked and sounded like.
An international TV star, our Twitter and Facebook feeds almost melted at his mention, let alone the pictures and videos. But a big thanks to all his fans for making it so – and do stick around – we will see how far around the world “You are my Sunday” goes.
“A Billion Colour Story” too deserves its space in the sun, a harder edged story than “You are my Sunday” – it is another sort of open love letter to Mumbai/Bombay and perhaps to India as a whole.
Both deserve to be seen more widely not just in the UK but around the world.
No one can really deny that Buddhadeb Dasgupta is a master – perhaps from another era, but still making films that challenge and provoke you.
Long may that continue – as it did with “The Bait”, if not quite the charm that was “Sniffer”.
Away from the Indian indies, there was also “Lion” starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.
We couldn’t get on the red carpet for that (you should see the list and number of organisations on the rejection email). But we did get to their screen talk and to the film itself. Not quite as brilliant as all the hype but still a decent effort by all.
There was also the return of Mira Nair, both in spirit and presence. “Queen of Katwe” was well executed and should do very well around the world.
It has some crossover appeal in that star David Oyelowo appears in this and the LFF’s opening gala film, “A United Kingdom”.
We covered the press conference and it was great to see a black woman Londoner, director of a “A United Kingdom” Amma Asante, hog the limelight.
As Oyelowo said then and later (see below), you want to get to the point where it is nothing, and does not have to be remarked upon.
Assante has produced a film of passion and meaning and deserves praise and big audience numbers for her true, romantic and powerful tale of a black prince falling in love with an English girl and going back to look after his people and his kingdom (present day Botswana).
All in all, it was good festival – but there was nothing that really hit us in the forehead with the force of a hammer or a cricket ball – it’s true that to be really moved and struck it has to be something that is not just good or well done, but utterly brilliant and totally arresting.
Nothing quite did that, but then there were very high expectations of the gala films that we saw – “Free Fire” included, disappointing on one level, but we can see how some might find it totally amazing, lest we ignore the fact that Martin Scorsese had a hand as a producer.
We did slightly miss out on the Oyelowo stand at the launch of the BFI’s Black Star initiative but we should have a report from the diversity seminar a few days later to bring all up to speed there.
There were two ACV competitions both very successful – for “Mirzya” and “You are my Sunday” and we hope the winners enjoyed the films.
So, do check in with all our coverage, whether here or the video Youtube and social media, and do feel free to comment on FACEBOOK.
And yes, it is more bhatura than chappathi, really…
Roll on BFI London Film Festival 2017…
Sailesh Ram, editor of www.asianculturevulture.com
All pictures (unless indicated) courtesy of the BFI and available at http://www.image.net
A Chappathi is more everyday fare than a Bhatura…