Anyone see Graham Norton show this weekend? Amy Adams was on, touting her two films (Arrival and Nocturnal Animals) which played at the LFF. Did she or Graham mention the LFF at all? Not a bit.
I think this is a dreadful shame. I went to the awards on Saturday night. On Sat morning I was in the park watching my sons play football. The usual Dads’ chats arrived and I mentioned – proudly- I was going to the LFF awards. “Oh, is that still on?” “Oh, I didn’t know that had started.” “Oh, what’s in the running?” “I didn’t know there was an award?”
Seriously. I get upset when I hear this. But it illustrates the difficulty of sustaining a world class event across 10 days in London, where there are so many other distractions and big events such as Frieze, or theatre, or a rock gig, or ten football matches.
I get upset because the LFF is a great event and this year was one of the strongest line-ups in many years. Attendances were up nearly 20 per cent thanks to the new pop-up screen in Embankment Gardens, which was a real hub and focus.
I went to the Odeon Leicester Square again on Friday night to see Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals – I think it’s a very classy thriller, very tense, beautifully made, constructed and peformed – and the red carpet was pretty well mobbed, as it was for Marion Cotillard and Lea Seydoux who were following in after, but you do feel that in Leicester Square there are over 150 premieres a year, and even the tramps are bored by a red carpet.
So Embankment may well become the place where the LFF ”happens” and i hope that becomes a fixture that can give the festival the focal point it clearly needs.
That’s what the awards were introduced for. Can you name the LFF award? No, didn’t think so. It’s the Star of London and you won’t know what it looks like either. I’ve always been disappointed with it. Not that it isn’t a lovely bit of sculptural work, it’s just that a Golden something (Pigeon, Nelson, Bus, Big Ben, Hitchcock, whatever) would have been more “branded” and the whole town might have known about it.
Nor can I say was the Best Film award the most helpful in terms of getting the awards better known. I love some of Kelly Reichardt’s films and Certain Women has a beautiful pace and grace to it, but is it really the best film of the LFF? My fave in the Official Competition was Moonlight (pictured), which is genius, and could really have done with a bunk up on the awards calendar circuit.
It would have been its first award and made news across the pond, and we would have been championing a story about black,, gay, masculinity that was extraordinary, tender, brilliant and featured our own Naomie Harris. It would really have made some noise. Anyway, you can’t predict a jury, but I’m just saying our recent awards in the Best Film have been a bit low key (Chevalier last year…)
The Sutherland Award for First Film is just as tough to predict. I was rooting for Lady Macbeth, a terrific debut from William Oldroyd. In the end, it went to French cannibal movie Raw, by Julia Ducournau, which is a cool choice, actually, though resolutely niche and a bit limited in terms of being a sort of genre piece. I thought the Paris-set urban spree that is Divines by Houda Benyamina might have been a more London-y pick if we were going to give it to a French filmmaker, one of whom we’ll be hearing more soon , for sure.
Ultimately, the awards night belonged to Steve McQueen of course, and his acceptance of the BFI Fellowship, presented by Michael Fassbender. That was a lovely speech and Steve’s speech in reply was strident and political and somehow not pompous. “I know two things – I’m black and I’m a Londoner,” he said, going on to say he’s only got this far because he had free University education which allowed him, a black, working class Londoner, to explore, develop, experiment and fail. Let’s hope he can be an inspiration to others like him.
What I like was that Steve was clearly chuffed with the Fellowship and we had a good dance after. Steve chose some of the playlist himself – he insisted on Kool and the Gang, Cameo and Chic. It all sounded great and it was lovely to see Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander dancing sweetly together, laughing and happy – she’s more than a match for his moves and, believe me, the Fass is known as one of the great awards-do dancers.
So: my LFF highlights? In no particular order, and for various different reasons.
Have You Seen My Movie?
Mindhorn (good to hear the Odeon Leicester Square resound with laughter)
Queen of Katwe (great party)
George Best: All By Himself (heartbreaking)
Divines (great interviewing director Houda Benyamina)
Manchester by the Sea (basically the scene with Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck, a sure-fire future Oscar clip)