Debut films dominate the London Film Festival Awards

The London Film Festival has drawn to a close with the European premiere of Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, following the latest awards ceremony, which was held online.

Iran’s Panah Panahi was described as an “exciting new talent” for his debut film, Hit The Road.

The Iranian film, Hit the Road, was chosen as the Best Film in the Official Competition at the festival. It’s described, by the BFI, as a quirky and chaotic road movie from Panah Panahi – the son of the dissident Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi – saying “This journey along the dusty road of life is a treasure that might just break your heart.”

The president of the Official Competition jury, Malgorzata Szumowska, said they had been looking for ways to connect to life. “Our choice is for a film that made us laugh and cry and feel alive.”

Hit the Road is Panahi’s debut film, but the Sutherland Award for the best First Feature went to Belgium’s Laura Wandel for Playground, which explores what the BFI described as the “harsh world of playground politics,” seen through the eyes of a seven year old girl.  The president of the First Feature Competition jury, Isabel Sandoval, said the film left them wanting to see more from a bold, audacious filmmaker. “It’s an intimate film that everyone can identify with and connect with, and yet has a striking and singular voice, with a courageous commitment to its vision.”

With her study of the explorer and environmentalist, Jacques Cousteau, Liz Garbus won the Grierson Award for Best Documentary for Becoming Cousteau. Kim Loginotto, who chaired the Grierson jury, said, “The film was a fascinating look at the life of Jacques Cousteau, but more importantly it highlights the most pressing issue of our time, Climate Change and urges us all to take action now.”

Duncan Speakman’s Only Expansion won the Immersive Art and XR Award, Diana Cam Van Nguyen won the Short Film Competition with Love, Dad and Mounia Akl’s debut feature Costa Brava, Lebanon took away the Audience Award – won last year by Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, which went on to win the Foreign Film Oscar.

The London Film Festival is also used as a platform to hand out the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, worth £50,000, which went this year to Harry Wootliff, the writer and director of True Things.