The 54th BFI London Film Festival came to a close tonight after 16 days and nights of screening over 200 films from around the world. The festival was capped off with the announcement of a series of awards which saw Alexei Popogrebsky’s “How I Ended This Summer” beating out some of the year’s biggest festival favorites for best film, and homegrown Clio Barnard’s “The Arbor” taking two of the other major awards.
From a shortlist that included Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours,” Mike Leigh’s “Another Year,” Darren Aronfosky’s “Black Swan,” Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech,” Xavier Beauvois’s “Of Gods and Men,” and Apitchatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme d’Or winner “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” a jury headed by actress Patricia Clarkson gave the festival’s top honors to “Summer.”
“With elemental themes of isolation, alienation and the power of misunderstanding, ‘How I Ended This Summer’ is a visceral psychological drama set in the immersive landscape of the windswept Arctic,” Clarkson said at the ceremony on behalf of her jury. “Director Alexei Popogrebsky has combined stunning cinematography with painterly attention to production detail and drawn intense and subtle performances from actors Grigory Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis. The film turns the hunter-versus-hunted narrative on its head to provoke powerful questions about life and death, resilience and human compassion. Tense, moving and universal in its scope, this is a cinematic tour de force.”
The film had premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year.
The jury also gave a special commendation to Joanna Hogg’s “Archipelago,” praising the film’s “taut and truthful performances and visual beauty.”
Other awards handed out included the Sutherland Award (presented to the director of the most original and imaginative feature debut in the Festival), and the award for Best British Newcomer. Both of those awards were handed to Clio Barnard’s “The Arbor.” The film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, focuses on the life of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. Artist-filmmaker Barnard, with a commission from Artangel, spent two years interviewing Dunbar’s family and friends, and these personal accounts formed the backbone to the film, which straggles the line between narrative and documentary filmmaking.
“‘The Arbor’ is a brave and highly original debut with many levels of experimentation on show,” Festival Artistic Director and Chair of the Sutherland Award jury, Sandra Hebron, said. “With outstanding performances that give a great resonance to the words of real people, Clio Barnard’s film tells a fascinating story with sophistication and haunting emotional impact. This is a challenging, moving and utterly memorable film and a deserving winner of the Sutherland Award”.
Finally, the festival handed out their annual Grierson Award for best documentary in the festival to Janus Metz’s “Armadillo.”
“Filmed with a combination of extraordinary intimacy and stylistic sophistication, Janus Metz’s ‘Armadillo’ follows a group of Danish soldiers on their first posting to Afghanistan,” director Kevin Macdonald, who headed the Grierson jury, said. “With total access and great honesty, the film shows us why these men want to go to war and what the experience of action does to them. 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.”
The evening also included the previously announced presentation of the BFI Fellowship to Danny Boyle, whose “127 Hours” closed the festival. Director Stephen Daldry was on hand to do so.