The London Film Festival reaches its climax tonight with the gala screening of Danny Boyle’s true-ordeal movie 127 Hours. Last night, however, was the festival’s occasion to hand out its gongs. Sue Perkins was the host at the awards ceremony held in LSO St Luke’s and here are the big winners.
Actress Patricia Clarkson, chair of the international jury, presented this year’s Best Film award to Russian director Alexei Popogrebsky for How I Ended This Summer, described by Clarkson as “a visceral psychological drama set in the immersive landscape of the windswept Arctic.”
Best British Newcomer
Director Clio Barnard claimed this year’s Best British Newcomer award for The Arbor, her multi-layered account of the life of the late British playwright Andrea Dunbar, author of Rita, Sue and Bob Too. According to juror Tony Grisoni, “Clio Barnard’s genre-busting film The Arbor is innovative, eloquent and emotionally resonant.”
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary went to Armadillo, which follows a group of Danish soldiers on their first posting to Afghanistan. Jury Chair Kevin Macdonald described director Janus Metz’s film as “humane but clear-eyed in its attitude to the conflict, we believe that Armadillo is a touchstone film that will be watched for years to come.”
Worthy choices all. To honour some of the other films shown at this year’s festival, here are some additional gongs we’d like to award.
The King’s Speech and Black Swan were two of the biggest hits with audiences at this year’s festival. The King’s Speech wittily and touchingly portrays the unconventional relationship between the future George VI (Colin Firth) and the eccentric Australian speech therapist (Geoffery Rush) who is trying to cure his stammer. Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a heady psychological thriller in which Natalie Portman’s ambitious ballerina pushes herself to the limit when she wins the lead role in Swan Lake. Both films went down a storm with their very different constituencies, but The King’s Speech will have the wider appeal among cinemagoers at large.
Best Literary Adaptation
The best book-to-screen effort at this year’s festival was an updated adaptation of a classic novel that had already produced a classic film – no, not Brighton Rock, this year’s woeful Surprise Film, but Malavoglia (The House by the Medlar Tree) – a version of Giovanni Verga’s 19th-century novel The House by the Medlar Tree. Verga’s book about poor Sicillian fishermen struggling to make a living had already provided the source for Luchino Visconti’s 1948 classic La terra trema. Encompassing illegal immigration and drug trafficking, Sicilian-born director Pasquale Scimeca’s new version brings the story vividly up to date.
Best Portrait of a Marriage
Blue Valentine and The Kids Are All Right are two films from the US portraying the difficulties of sustaining a modern marriage. Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine shows Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a young couple in the final throes of their relationship. Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right depicts a long-term couple, played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, struggling to keep their relationship alive in the face of the disruption caused by the appearance of the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) they used two decades ago. Both very fine films, but the award goes to Blue Valentine for its unsparing scrutiny of human frailty.
Best Socially Conscious Thriller
Ken Loach and his regular screenwriter Paul Laverty direct their fire at the privatisation of war in Iraq in Route Irish, their typically engaged account of an ex-soldier’s efforts to uncover the truth about his best friend’s death while working for a private security firm in Baghdad. Ricardo Darín, so good in The Secret in Their Eyes, is on top form in Carancho as a (literally) ambulance-chasing lawyer whose burgeoning relationship with Martina Gusman’s overworked emergency doctor inspires him to try to do the right thing in a cut-throat Buenos Aires. Gripping and absorbing from the off, Carancho gets the gong.