Half of LFF Competition Films Directed by Women

The BFI has announced the shortlist for this year’s Star of London award for Best Film at this year’s London Film Festival.

Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes

Half of the films have female directors. “Representing a tantalizing range of styles, these films tell stories from around the globe – from 3rd Century China to post-Pinochet Chile to contemporary Britain – and transport viewers to worlds both real and imagined,” said the festival’s Artistic Director Tricia Tuttle. “These works are by turns, socially and politically urgent, muscularly thrilling, evocatively personal, spectacular, kinky and wildly inventive. It’s also a real pleasure to see that half of these films come from female directors.”

The nominated films are:

BIRDS OF PASSAGE (PÁJAROS DE VERANO): Co-directed by Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra, who previously screened Embrace the Serpent at LFF. Their latest film is described as “a sprawling, spiritual exploration of family conflict and tribal warfare, laced with heady symbolism and surrealist flashes.”

DESTROYER: Directed by Karyn Kusama, who returns to LFF after The Invitation, three years ago. Her new film features Nicola Kidman as a jaded police detective, haunted by her past and still reeling from the trauma of her experience years later.

HAPPY AS LAZZARO (LAZZARO FELICE): Alice Rohrwacher, whose film The Wonders was screened at LFF in 2014, returns with Happy as Lazzaro, which shared the Best Screenplay award in Cannes this year. It’s described as a genre-bending rumination on the fate of innocence when faced with corruption and greed.

IN FABRIC: Directed by Peter Strickland, whose The Duke of Burgundy screened at LFF in 2014. He returns with a haunting ghost story that programmers say is “laced with lashings of oddball humour and set against the backdrop of a busy winder sales period in a strange department store.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR, COLIN BURSTEAD: Sightseers director Ben Wheatley, who closed the LFF with Free Fire in 2016, returns with what’s described as a “poignantly funny and razor-sharp observation of English family dysfunction.”

JOY: Directed Sudabeh Mortezai, whose Macondo competed for the LFF Best First Film Award in 2014, is back with a drama about sex trafficking in Europe, which follows a young Nigerian woman, who works the streets of Vienna to pay off debts to her exploiter Madame, while supporting her family in Nigeria.

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN: By A Ghost Story director David Lowery. Robert Redford has said this crime caper will be his final film, based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, whose prison breaks included escaping from Alcatraz in a homemade kayak.

SHADOW (YING): By the veteran Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The festival programmers say “blood spills in this visually stunning feature, as a great king and his people will be expelled from their homeland,” during China’s Three Kingdom’s era (AD 220-280).

SUNSET (NAPSZÁLLTA ): Switching from his Oscar-winning Second World War drama Son of Saul to a film set on the even of the First World War, Hungary’s László Nemes delivers what’s described as a meditation on the end of an empire, centring on a hat maker who returns to Budapest, years after her parents sent her to be fostered under mysterious circumstances.

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG (TARDE PARA MORIR JOVEN): Dominga Sotomayor directs what’s described as “a woozily gorgeous evocation of life on the fringe of society,” with three youngsters driving to a woodland commune below the Andes, as democracy is returning to Chile after the fall of Pinochet.

For the first time since the festival introduced its formal awards in 2009, the winner of the Best Film honour will be presented with the trophy in front of a public audience at a special screening of the feature.

The BFI has also revealed that this year’s Best Film jury will be presided over by Lenny Abrahamson, whose Oscar-winning Room, featured in the festival’s competition strand in 2015, said, “I am delighted to continue my relationship with the BFI London Film Festival. It’s an honour to be this year’s Jury Chair and I very much look forward to deliberating with my fellow jurors on what is sure to be some of the most exciting, thought-provoking and original work in this year’s selection of films.”