Certain Women takes top prize at LFF

Raw and Starless Dreams also honoured.

by Amber Wilkinson

Certain Women won the prize for best film at London Film Festival.
Certain Women won the prize for best film at London Film Festival.
Kelly Reichardt's female-centric drama Certain Women, starring Kristen Stewart, Lily Gladstone, Michelle Williams and Laura Dern, has won the Best Film award in London Film Festival's Official Competition.

The jury - headed by Chevalier director Athina Rachel Tsangari - said “In a vibrant year for cinema it was the masterful mise en scène and quiet modesty of this film that determined our choice for Best film. A humane and poignant story that calibrates with startling vulnerability and delicate understatement the isolation, frustrations and loneliness of lives unlived in a quiet corner of rural America”.

The Sutherland Award for best first feature went to Julia Ducournau for Raw, a coming-of-age body horror tale about a young woman’s insatiable appetite for flesh.

Jury president Sarah Gavron (Suffragette) said “It is a film that shocked and surprised us in equal measure. We admired the way the director did something completely unexpected with the genre. We enjoyed the outrageousness of the story-telling, and the glee with which events unfolded.

“We loved the eerie originality of the setting, the dark, dark humour, the great score and the truly distinctive visual language. And the bold charismatic acting of the women at the centre of a film that is both unique and unsettling and will quite literally make some swoon.”

The jury also gave a special commendation to Uda Benyamina's Divines for its standout female performance from Oulaya Amamra and for its great energy and veracity.

Starless Dreams, Mehrdad Oskouei's portait of women on the extreme margins of Iranian society, won The Grierson Award for best documentary.

Jury president Louise Osmond (Deep Water) said: “Starless Dreams is the story of young women in a juvenile detention centre in Iran. By that description you’d imagine a dark film exploring a bleak world of broken young lives. This film was the very opposite of that.

“It took us into a world none of us knew anything about - the street kids, thieves and children of crack addicts of Iran - and showed us a place full of humour, life and spirit. Beautifully paced with great characterisation and a very strong sense of place, director Mehrdad Oskouei captured the fears and friendships of these teenagers with such humanity. The profoundly moving irony of the film is that it was in this detention centre, with others like them, that these girls finally found a sense of family and home; you feared for them most the day they were released back into their family’s care. It’s a film that stays with you for a very long time”.

The Best Short Film Award went to 9 Days - From My Window In Aleppo, directed by Issa Touma, Thomas Vroege and Floor van de Muelen.

Jury president Mat Kirkby (Hard To Swallow) said “When Syrian photographer Issa Touma decided to pick up his camera and film events from his window in Aleppo, he did not know whether he would be alive to finish the filming. Not only does his documentary show what one person, one camera and a restricted view of an alleyway can do to reveal something as complex, confusing, and terrifying as a civil war, but also it demonstrates the power of film to reach the wider world, and make those of us more fortunate re-assess the freedom we take for granted.”

12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen was awarded with a BFI Fellowship, as previously announced.

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