BEV's London Film Festival Top Picks!

BEV’S LFF ROUND-UP

The 58th BFI London Film Festival came to close on Sunday 19th October, after 12 thrilling days. BEVer Sonia Zadurian discusses her picks of the festival…

An incredible year for female filmmakers, the 58th BFI London Film Festival featured over 100 titles directed by women. These shorts and features were extremely diverse, from Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan’s unforgettable Best Documentary recipient Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait to Carol Morley’s beguilingly beautiful drama The Falling.

With such an extraordinary array of films on display, we’ve been positively spoilt for choice, but top of the list this year was the utterly captivating horror romance A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, the film takes place in the Iranian ghost town of Bad City and follows The Girl (Sheila Vand), a vampire who stalks the town’s inhabitants after dark. The Girl leads a solitary life, limiting her contact with the townsfolk to late night attacks on very bad men. However, after meeting the good-natured Arash (Arash Marandi), The Girl discovers that she is capable of connecting with others. Will it be possible for her to sustain any kind of relationship with a human, considering her penchant for punishment?

At first glance, the prospect of a black and white horror romance set in a fictional Iranian ghost town might seem a little strange, and it is wonderfully so. A perfectly blended combination of genres, the film deftly navigates from chilling horror to enchanting romance, adding darkly comic moments and elements of classic westerns along the way. Under Amirpour’s keen eye, The Girl’s dark and desolate environment becomes a veritable visual playground; it takes no great leap of the imagination to consider that with each carefully composed and often highly stylised frame, we are witnessing some of the iconic film images of tomorrow. Special mention must also go to Vand, whose quietly restrained performance ensures that The Girl’s more intimidating moments are truly terrifying. As the release date has not yet been confirmed, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night doesn’t currently have a UK trailer, but you can glimpse some of the extraordinary visuals mentioned above in the French trailer, here.

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Another festival favourite was the superb drama Girlhood, from writer/director Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, 2007, Tomboy, 2011). Set in the suburbs of Paris, the film follows black sixteen-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré), as she is excluded from school and becomes part of a girl gang. From the dynamic opening sequence, Sciamma lays the groundwork for a narrative that will explore the particular importance of female friendships during those crucial teen years as well as more specifically looking at the effects of depriving our youth of a constructive outlet for their exuberance. With astonishingly naturalistic performances from Touré and the rest of her gang (Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh and Mariétou Touré), Girlhood is at its best when observing interactions within the group; from a bold, empowering lip synch set to Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, to a hilarious crazy golf sequence. The girls are an absolutely joy to watch and although at times the film may be heartbreaking, Sciamma stresses their strength in the face of overwhelming pressures. From blatant slut shaming to more subtle cajoling from her love interest on what it means to be a ‘decent’ girl, Marieme comes up against sexism at every turn, but ultimately the key point impressed upon the audience is of her extraordinary resilience.

Girlhood

In addition to the above, there were a handful of films that also stood out for us. From Appropriate Behaviour, Desiree Akhavan’s Brooklyn set comedy about a semi-closeted bisexual Persian-American going through a tough break-up, to Debra Granik’s portrait of Vietnam War veteran Ronnie Hall in the intimate documentary Stray Dog, there was a remarkably wide range of female-driven work on show at this year’s festival. Here at BEV, we’ve already begun counting down to next…

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Written by Sonia Zadurian

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