Chevalier rides off with best film in London

Other winners include The Witch and Sherpa

by Amber Wilkinson

Greek film Chevalier won the Best Film award at London Film Festival tonight. Robert Eggers' The Witch - which premiered at Sundance - won the Sutherland prize for Best First Feature.

Director Athina Rachel Tsangari - who won plaudits for her previous film Attenberg - skewers masculinity with Chevalier, by focusing on six men who decide to play a game of oneupmanship after a fishing trip runs into difficulty.

The president of the jury, Ida director Pawel Pawlikowski said “Chevalier is a study of male antagonism seen though the eyes of a brave and original filmmaker. With great formal rigour and irresistible wit, Athena Rachel Tsangari has managed to make a film that is both a hilarious comedy and a deeply disturbing statement on the condition of western humanity”.

Pawlikowski was joined on the jury by producer Christine Vachon, actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kristin Scott-Thomas, and director and screenwriter Mabel Cheung.

Eggers The Witch - which sees superstition and fairy tale mingle sexual awakening in a family of New England settlers - was praised by jury president Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior).

Jury say The Witch is
Jury say The Witch is "A horror film that felt as though it were reinventing the genre with each frame."
She said: “This year’s Sutherland Award nominees were a bold group of beautifully crafted first features. Of the nominated films, one stood apart as the announcement of a new voice in contemporary cinema. A horror film that felt as though it were reinventing the genre with each frame and truly shocking moments that evoke both terror and empathy. With an impressive command of cameras as well as truly heartbreaking performances - it presented a fresh, feminist take on a timeless tale”

The jury also commended Martin Butler and Bentley Dean’s Tanna - about loyalty and a forbidden love affair on a remote Pacific Island - saying: “It’s a rare skill to give a voice to a typically marginalised community that doesn’t condescend or patronize.”

Akhavan’s jury comprised BAFTA-nominated director and Fine Artist Clio Barnard, who won the Sutherland Award in 2010 for her feature debut The Arbor, James Kent (Testament of Youth), actor Allen Leech (The Imitation Game), and chief film critic of The Times, Kate Muir.

The Grierson Award for the best documentary was awarded to Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa - about tragedy on Mount Everest.

The jury said “We are taken into the lives, homes and families of the Sherpas, who have for too long been overlooked and exploited, dependent for their livelihoods on an increasing number of tourists who sometimes regard them as little more than owned slaves. We’re left with an appreciation of the sacrifices the Sherpa community have made for over six decades. We applaud this impressive film for giving voice to a previously voiceless community, and we hope it reaches the wide, general audience that it deserves”.

The jury were critic and filmmaker Mark Cousins, documentary maker Brian Woods, Guardian head off documentary Charlie Ohillips and London-based artists and filmmakers Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard (20,000 Days on Earth).

An Old Dog's Diary, directed by Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel won the inaugural award for Best Short Film - described by the festival as "a lyrical film portrait of Francis Newton Souza, one of the key Indian artists of the 20th-century, inspired by his personal writings, letters, drawings and possessions".

Jury President Daisy Jacob (The Bigger Picture) said “An Old Dog’s Diary is as poetic and soulful as its subject. It offers a fresh and original way of documenting the life of an artist. It looks beautiful, sounds beautiful, but, more than that, it tells us about the beauty of the human spirit.”

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