Leviathan wins top award in London

Russian film takes top honours as First Feature gong goes to The Tribe

by Amber Wilkinson

Leviathan won the Official Competition
Leviathan won the Official Competition
The 58th London Film Festival announced its winners tonight as it prepared to wrap up another year with David Ayer's Fury.

Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan - tracking the conflict between one man and state corruption in a small Russian town won the Official Competition.

President of the Official Competition jury Jeremy Thomas said: “We were all very engaged by the 12 films selected for Competition and really admired many of them, there were extraordinary stories and impressive images. But there was one film that we were unanimous in wanting to award Best Film, "Leviathan" directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Its grandeur and themes moved all of us in the same way.”

The jury also commended Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood about a female teenage emigre's search for identity in the underprivileged suburbs of Paris.

The Sutherland Award for best first feature was awarded to Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy for his Ukranian drama The Tribe - which won the Critics' Week Award at Cannes. Set in a school for the deaf, the film is acted entirely in sign language.

Speaking abou the film producer Luc Roeg said the film "distinguished itself as the most original and powerful of all the contenders. The young non-professional cast were all exceptional, but special mention must go to Yana Novikova. Slaboshpytskiy makes an audacious and highly accomplished debut as writer/director and has marked himself out as a true auteur. It’s a pleasure and privilege to commend the work”.

The jury also commended Naja Abu Nowar’s Theeb about orphaned brothers on a treacherous journey across the desert in the far reaches of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the Arab revolt.

Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan took home the Grierson Award for best documentary, for their study of civil war Silvered Water. Syria Self-Portrait.

Writer and producer Sophie Fiennes said: “The jury were deeply affected by this film. Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan's portrait of Syria is both unflinching and poetic. It is hard to watch, because the fact of war is and should be unbearable. Bedirxan's passionate and courageous quest to be a reliable witness, while trying to comprehend and survive her desperate situation in Homs, is profoundly moving. Ossama Mohammed's exile in Paris, resonates with our own safe distance from this war, but the miracle of the film is how it engages us.”

The award for Best British Newcomer went to Sameena Jabeen Ahmed for her performance in Catch Me Daddy, the jury said their decision on her "breakout performance" was "unanimous" and that she was "very assured, confident and fearless" in the lead role of Laila. They added: "She was the heartbeat of the film."

The ceremony at The Banqueting House, Whitehall, also saw The Queen director Stephen Frears, 73, pick up his BAFTA Fellowship. It was presented to him by playwright and screenwriter Sir David Hare who said: “I can’t think of anyone who’s made a richer, more diverse or more consistently intelligent contribution to British film in my lifetime”.

Read more London Film Festival coverage here,

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