The 64th BFI London Film Festival comes to an end

With the announcement of this year’s winners the London Film Festival comes to a close.

The BFI London Film Festival came to a close yesterday evening, announcing Another Round by Thomas Vinterberg as this year’s best film. The other winning titles were The Painter and The Thief for best documentary, Shuttlecock in the short film category and To Miss the Ending for best XR/Immersive Art.

For the first time this year, all winners were voted by a virtual audience with all contemporary films presented virtually being eligible. Festival director Tricia Truttle said about this choice: “There was never a moment in this utterly crazy year when we considered not delivering a BFI London Film Festival. We know LFF means too much to both filmmakers and audiences. So how fitting, then, that we put audiences in control of the Awards this year with our first Virtual LFF Audience Awards. And dammit, don’t our audiences have great taste?!”

The closing title of the festival was Ammonite by Francis Lee, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. After depicting a love story between two boys in the wilderness of Yorkshire in God’s Own Country, Lee sets his new film in the desolate landscape of Lyme Regis in Dorset. Ammonite recounts the life of palaeontologist Mary Anning who falls in love with Charlotte, a young woman who is recovering from a personal tragedy.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronani in Ammonite

Lee employs similar elements to those of God’s Own Country: the often austere landscape becomes almost a character in the film, the force of nature always present. As on his previous feature, the director shows two opposite characters: if Mary, who appears as an assertive and independent woman, is at first reticent to express her feelings, she is liberated by the more fragile Charlotte. Ammonite is a profoundly fascinating film in which Winslet and Ronan deliver dazzling performances.

The other title screening on the last day of the festival was Lovers Rock from director Steve McQueen. The film is part of the Small Axe anthology where McQueen portrays the lives and experience of Black people in Britain. Set in the ’80s, Lovers Rock revolves around a house- party in West London where Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) and Franklyn (Michael Ward) meet. It’s a rapturous evening of dances, with constant music playing, where the two young people see the blossoming of a possible romance. McQueen’s camera moves around the room where the party takes place, encountering faces, observing bodies intertwining, and infusing the film with a strong sense of community. It’s a work of contagious energy that will make you long for the sense of togetherness we so often experienced through music before the pandemic.

A still from Lovers Rock

And so, the BFI London Film Festival came to an end: it was a different kind of event – mostly experienced from our houses – that highlighted how, despite the global crisis we are going through, Cinema hasn’t lost any of its capability to amaze.