Quality filmmaking has been in abundance at this year’s London Film Festival, which will come as no surprise to those that annually dive into its goldmine of features and shorts. Even still, the 2022 edition of the BFI-hosted festival has enjoyed a particularly varied lineup of fantastic first features from promising newcomers (So Yun um & Liquor Store Dreams), the latest from modern masters returning with anticipation (Iñárittu’s Bardo and Park Chan-wook’s Decision To Leave), and documentaries that promise to push change and inspire (Alice Diop’s Saint Omer and Laura Poitras’ All The Beauty And The Bloodshed) .
Taking home the Best Film In-Competition award this year is Marie Kreutzer’s period piece Corsage, a fictionalised biopic of Empress Elizabeth of Austria (played by Vicky Krieps) that explores the various obstacles and hardships of being a woman with modern ideas trapped in the 19th century. The jury commended Kreutzer’s “mesmerising and original interpretation” of the Empress’ life, as well as the sublime performance from Vicky Krieps.
No strand at LFF was more fierce and teeming with truly great filmmaking than perhaps the documentary. The Grierson Award for best doc was awarded to All That Breathes, directed by Shaunak Sen and following two brothers racing to save a Black Kite, a bird of prey essential to the cities ecosystem that is in danger of becoming a casualty to the pollution that plages New Delhi. The Grierson jury made a point of commending What About China, a fascinating history lesson from Trinh Minh-ha that see’s the filmmaker use archive footage of China in the mid-90s to explore the countries vast and multilayered history. According to the jury, the film establishes “a structure almost musical in form commands a place for non-fiction filmmaking outside the demands of narrative“.
Nabbing best first feature is 1976, a debut from Manuela Martelli that’s billed as an unnerving portrait in which the Pinochet dictatorship realised its brute force and pervasive influence. The jury evaluated the film as “a quietly simmering political thriller with elements of noir— Martelli’s taut and refined style expertly wields menace through meticulous framing and skilful use of lighting. It is a remarkable debut, original and imaginative in its symbolism, attention to detail, and profound performances.“. Also commended by the jury is Saim Sadiq’s Joyland, following the youngest son of a middle-class family in Lahore after falling in love with a transgender dancer, describing Sadiq as “an exciting new voice in filmmaking”.
Other winners include Yue Li’s gripping short film strand-winner I Have No Legs, And I Must Run, as well as Charlie Shackleton’s As Mine Exactly, an immersive VR film that exploring the documentarian’s personal childhood story through a blend of virtual reality, performance, and film. Taking home audience awards are Ade Femzo for his short film Drop Out and Lisa Selby, Rebecca Hirsch Lloyd-Evans, and Alex Fry for their feature Blue Bag Life.
Check out the rest of the site for more reviews from LFF, including Bardo and Decision To Leave, as well as upcoming reviews for Joanna Hogg’s Eternal Daughter, Koji Fukada’s Love Life, and more.