The Best of BFI London Film Festival 2016

BFI’s 60th London Film Festival closed this weekend after an eclectic showcase of fantastic new filmmaking that began on 5th October. Cinema from all over the world was screened, including short films, features and documentaries, featuring both established directors and directorial debuts. As well as the powerful ‘Chi-Raq’, which we reviewed last week, here are our top five films from the festival line-up.

American Honey

Andrea Arnold is the hugely talented director known for the raw realism of her previous gems, such as ‘Fish Tank’ and her innovative adaptation of ‘Wuthering Heights.’ The British director crossed the Atlantic for her latest film, which follows a group of young travelling magazine salespeople. Arnold, who also cast an unknown to star in ‘Fish Tank,’ spotted Sasha Lane, the lead of ‘American Honey,’ on a beach during spring break. Lane is Star, who leaves her troubled, poverty stricken background to join Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and Krystal’s (Riley Keough) lifestyle of partying, drinking, fighting, and love triangles. Exploring youth, crime, sex and the myth of the American dream, the film is a scrappy and electrifying film, ensuring magnetic viewing.

‘American Honey’ is currently on general release in the UK.

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A United Kingdom

After her stunning period drama ‘Belle,’ Amma Asante returns with the true story of an interracial marriage that made headlines, meeting fierce opposition both politically and from the couple’s families. In 1947, Seretese Khama (David Oyelowo), a Prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), was studying law in London, where he met typist Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). The South African government, on the brink of apartheid, refused to tolerate an interracial couple ruling neighbouring Bechuanaland. Threatening to cut off supplies to Britain, they pressured them to destroy the marriage, and extreme lengths were taken to break up the couple. The relationship is portrayed with beautiful warmth and poignancy, but is never soppy, and the film explores imperialism, racist political bullying and fear of interracial relations.

‘A United Kingdom’ opens in UK cinemas on 25th November.

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Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Renowned documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog’s latest film examines the internet and its impact on our society. The documentary is broken into ten chapters that each focus on an aspect of the tech world, from the birth of the internet, to the world of hacking, each filled with interviews from professionals, enthusiasts and technology addicts. Herzog explores the internet in its many lights: dark, absurd, and brilliant, in almost as ambitious a style as the technology industry has itself. Living in an age where technology the internet play an essential role our daily lives and a huge part in modern communication, this is a fascinating documentary about its impact on society, culture, and human interaction.

‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ opens in UK cinemas on 28th October.

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La La Land

Damien Chazelle, the director of 2014’s sublime ‘Whiplash’ has returned to a musical topic with his latest film, ‘La La Land.’ The musical romance uses showtunes and free jazz to tell the story of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) falling for an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) in Los Angeles. They’re both talented, and both chasing their dreams, and the film explores the sacrifices that ambition requires. A homage to classic musical films and Old Hollywood, Gosling and Stone perform their musical numbers with charm despite neither being singers. Tonally polarised from Chazelle’s previous film but just as exhilarating. ‘La La Land,’ is a sunny, sweet film with a big heart.

‘La La Land’ will open in UK cinemas on 13th January 2017.

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Certain Women

This years official competition winner, ‘Certain Women’ explores three stories following women living in small town Livingstone, Montana, adapted from Maile Meloy’s short story collection ‘Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It.’ Starring Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart, the characters are richly realised and the performances are wonderful. ‘Certain Women’ is about everyday lives and people, exploring gender dynamics and relationships, and is another addition to director Kelly Reichhardt’s canon of engrossing, slow-burning, and relatable dramas.

The film was released on October 14, 2016, by IFC Films.