Streaming Spotlight: London Film Festival highlights

Five films to catch on the BFI Player

by Amber Wilkinson

What Do We See When We Look At The Sky?
What Do We See When We Look At The Sky? Photo: Faraz Fesharaki/DFFB
London Film Festival is underway and, in addition to screenings in the capital, several of the films are also available to watch via the BFI Player. Here we pick five highlights for you to catch online.

What Do We See When We Look At The Sky?, available October 7-8

This Georgian shaggy dog story - complete with not-so shaggy dogs - takes a little bit of rolling with to begin with but fast becomes an enchanting fairy tale of will they/won't they romance. It's love at first sight for pharmacist Lisa (Oliko Barbakadze) and footballer Giorgi (Giorgi Ambroladze) - although we only see it from the perspective of their feet but the course of things is immediately complicated in fairy-tale fashion by both of them undergoing a physical transformation overnight that leaves them unrecognisable to one another. To make things worse, they also lose their job skills and so the pair (now played by Ani Karseladze and Giorgi Bochorishvili) end up working, unbeknownst to one another, within a stone's throw of each other. Aleksandre Koberidze's tale is a leisurely stroll rather than a sprint, that isn't scared to head off the beaten track - and so we see kids playing football and dogs looking for somewhere to watch it. Although it may sometimes seem as though it's straying too far, it turns out that Koberidze never once takes his eyes off the goal. As Koberidze told us: "Somehow if you look long enough at a thing, then you start to communicate."

Brother's Keeper, available from October 8-9

Brother's Keeper
Brother's Keeper Photo: Diren Duzgun/Asteros Film
You might want to turn the heating up at home before watching Ferit Karahan's film which is laced, from the start, with a chilly anxiety. Set in a boarding school in the middle of a snowy winter, there is only cold comfort for the children, including little Yusuf (Samet Yildiz), who tries to help his friend Memo (Nurullah Alaca) in the wake of a cold shower punishment. Karahan reveals the tiny moments of casual cruelty and cover-up that conspire against the youngsters, whose warmth and care for one another is in stark contrast to the disinterest of the teachers who are supposed to be looking after them in a film that grips to the last.

Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy, available October 10-11

Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy
Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy Photo: 2021 Neopa/Fictive
Mateusz Tarwacki writes: Ryusuke Hamaguchi's film consists of three film novels, which ironically point out the artificiality and awkwardness of interpersonal relationships. It fits perfectly into the time of the pandemic, in which contact between people has become more alien and social competences must be learned anew. Spinning the wheel of fate, it is as easy to find fortune, fantasy and chemistry as misunderstanding, conflict, regret and bad decisions – and once set in motion, it cannot be stopped. Hamaguchi is as sociologically sharp as Eric Rohmer, as ironic as Hong Sang-soo, and although he may sometimes lack essence, the richness of form undoubtedly makes up for it.

Natural Light, available October 13-14

Natural Light
Natural Light Photo: Courtesy of Berlinale
Dénes Nagy immerses in the weary grind of the Second World War as we follow small group of Hungarian soldiers, led by Corporal Semetka (Ferenc Szabó), who seems to have been drained almost dry of emotion by the conflict. The group are involved in skirmishes in Soviet territory as they hunt out partisans. The broody mood settles into the bones of the film as the water and mud seep into the soldiers' clothing, as trouble inevitably comes to both the soldiers and those they meet, with Nagy and his co-writer Pál Závada show there's little chance of escape from the brutal acts of war, no matter what side you're on.

Flee, available October 15-16

The winner of Sundance's Grand Jury Documentary prize this year, like some of the films in our Streaming Spotlight last week, uses animation to navigate the psychological terrain of its subject's experience. Its focus is Afghan Amin Nawabi - whose anonymity is also preserved thanks to the animation - who escaped his homeland and the Mujahadeen as a child in the 1990s. The film considers the lingering trauma of that time and its ongoing impact on Nawabi's relationships as well as exploring Nawabi's experience of coming to terms with his sexual identity as a gay man.

In addition to the features, the short films screening at the festival are available to watch for free, including family animation Blush.

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