BFI London Film Festival 2014

Posted on October 29, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

I am not sure how other film buffs pick their choices at the BFI London Film Festival, but usually by the time I finish 'studying' the brochure, all the films that I intend to see would sell out!

Like always, I would pick the less popular films or films that are less unlikely to be screened in the cinemas. This year, I picked 2 feature films, 1 documentary and 1 docudrama.

Another Year - I have seen many masterful but mostly bleak and somber films made by Russian filmmakers, so I was interested to see a film set in contemporary Moscow about a young married couple directed by Oxana Bychkova. Based on a play, the film is essentially a modern-day love story, but it is realistic and depicts the vulnerability of relationships in this day and age. The film's young newlyweds are not only different in personalities, but they are pursuing different goals in life. Slowly, we see the breakdown of their marriage due to increasing conflicts. The film also reveals the hipster lifestyle of 20-somethings in Moscow, which is not so different from London, Paris or New York. It shows how globalisation has changed our world. Aside from being slightly too long, the film is engaging, realistic, but not grim. The acting is natural and convincing esp. by the lead actress. If you are interested in contemporary Russian cinema, then this film is certainly worth watching.


Another year/ Esche odin god (2014)


Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait - Some documentaries are not made for comfortable viewing, they are made to tell the world what is going on in the forbidden or war-torn zones where outsiders cannot reach. Before seeing this film, I was prepared for it to be harrowing and gory, but it is actually more distressing than I had expected.

Directed, edited and narrated by Syrian director Ossama Mohammed (now an exile in Paris), with music by Noma Omran, most of the footage in the documentary is provided by a Kurdish young woman Wiam Simav Bedirxan based in Homs. The footage is not shot in high quality, most of the time it is blurry, shaky and frantic, but it does not diminish the content, in fact, it enhances the urgency and desperation of the filmmaker.

Most of us are aware of the civil war going on in Syria for the last few years via the media, yet it's hard to understand the scope and exigency until you watch this documentary. I am aware that sometimes documentaries can be quite biased, but I think this film's aim is to reveal the horrors and brutality of this ongoing war. Instead of a few minutes of air time on the news, we see faces of innocent children, soldiers, dead people (including babies and children), injured animals and grief-stricken civilians. The courage of the Kurdish young filmmaker is admirable, and if it wasn't for her bravery, this film would never have been made. This film won The Grierson Award for the best documentary at the film festival, and it needs to be watched by more people even if it is raw and unbearable. Yet this is the true face of war, and the most tragic of all is that there is no foreseeable end to this conflict.


Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (2014)


Walking under water - This beautifully-shot docudrama is written and directed by Polish artist-turned director Eliza Kubarska (her first feature film). The film is about the Badjao tribe, a group of sea gypsies living in Borneo with no nationalities nor rights nor stable homes. They are exceptional free divers, yet their unique way of life is threatened with extinction. The film follows a compressor diver (the only one left in their tribe), and his young nephew who loves the sea and wants to learn more from his uncle.

The cinematography is stunning, and it is fascinating to watch the simple life that the Badjao tribe live. Yet their struggle with modern civilisation and the threat of tourism mean that they are unlikely to survive if they continue to live in their traditional way.

The director and producer are now raising fund to help build a school for the Badjao kids, so you can pledge your support via their website above.


Walking under water (2014)


Flowers (Loreak) - Of all the film I saw at the festival, this Basque film that links the lives of three women by the presence of flowers is my favourite. I was also glad to hear the two directors Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga talk at Q & A session afterward the screening.

This is a very intelligent, sensitive, subtle, and insightful film on women, human nature, memories and bereavement (the two male directors seem to understand women very well). The flower motif is a clever metaphor and tactfully used in this film. As the director mentioned at the Q & A, a bunch of flowers can bring joy to one person, yet it can be threatening to another. As with memory, one person tries to forget ends up remembering and another who tries to remember ends of forgetting. Life is full of irony and unpredictable circumstances, and most of the time, we are not in control of what is happening to us. Sometimes we try to escape or forget, and sometimes we cling onto memories or hope.

I felt very touched by this film, and I like the fact that it is full of suspense, which makes you keep wondering what will happen next. It is well crafted with excellent performances by the entire cast. The film also question people's perception, we often judge at face value, yet this can be wrong as we only see partial of the story. I highly recommend this film if you can get a chance to see it.


Flowers/ Loreak

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